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In The Spirit World - Chapter 11
Freedom for the Warriors
Laidan showed Atina that he could be vicious when necessary. He pointed to an axe held by one of her warriors and light shot from his finger. The warrior shrieked as the axe burst into flame.
“All right…” Atina conceded, “I’ll tell you where the bottom pit is!” She glared at them one by one, “I haven’t been there but…”
“You haven’t been there?” Laidan snapped. “You offered to take us to the Encantor souls!”
Atina snapped back, “I said they are in the bottom pit and I will go with you but I don’t know how to get down there!”
Laidan heaved a sigh of exasperation.
Atina explained, “Gimokodan has three levels. This is first and the second is right below us. We go down… and from there I can take you to a desolate land which is just endless I tell you. Many times, we tried to walk to the end but we always turn back,” she sighed, “if we get to the end of that barren land, I know we’ll find the way down to the bottom pit…”
“We have to go there now!” Agawe declared.
“I’ll get my maganis ready…”
“You didn’t have to go…” Laidan stopped her. “Tell us how to get to that desolate land and we’re on our way…”
Atina turned to Laidan, “Down below, you will be attacked by those souls who want to steal human bodies… you can blast them but they are dead… they will not burn…” she paused before she continued, “I and my maganis know how to stop them and get them back to their resting places.”
“And why will you do that…?” Gayon asked guardedly.
“Why not? You obviously need help.” Her voice quivered, “Since we are spending eternity here… we might as well make ourselves useful…”
Agawe wished Laidan would reconsider. When Laidan turned to him, Agawe had that recurring feeling that the Encantor could read his mind.
Laidan sighed audibly, “Can we take them? What do you think, Nibor?”
“Really? All of us?” Atina’s voice was hopeful.
“Yes…” Laidan mumbled and to everyone’s surprise Atina hugged Laidan. She lifted Encanta and danced around with her. “You will never regret this!”
“I am regretting already,” Laidan murmured and everybody chuckled.
The Bored Souls
They descended through tiny and slimy crevices in the rocks made worse by the putrid smell of death hanging in the air. After what seemed to be an endless descent, they reached solid ground. They were greeted by a long stretch of abaca plantation and rice fields.
“The souls here are those who died naturally with minor sins,” Atina explained. “Whatever they did when they were alive is the same thing they do here… but these souls are bored and lonely… they miss their family… they will do anything to come back to life… they will steal bodies.”
“Where are they?” Ayong wondered.
“Let’s hope they are not around,” Atina said but even as she said the words, the souls appeared and rushed to them. “Stay behind…!” she yelled as she moved forward.
Atina and her warriors met the rushing souls and fought with them mightily. Agawe stood rooted on the ground, watching Atina display her skill with the sword and the spear. She moved with such grace and speed that Agawe momentarily forgot he was watching her in a battleground. In his eyes, the beautiful Atina was merely performing a warrior dance.
The fight did not last long. The souls were subdued and the warriors drove them back to their resting places.
The Bottom Pit
“The bottom pit is designed to receive only the dead …” Atina clarified, “the living might disturb the place and who knows what will happen… ”
After much consideration, it was agreed that Agawe, Laidan, Atina, and Nibor would search for the way to the bottom pit while Encanta, Gayon and Ayong would stay with the birdmen in the second level. The women warriors would keep them safe from the souls.
Agawe pulled Ayong and Gayon aside. “If anything happens down there and we don’t come back… you should go back to Sayling… she will know what to do.” He took a deep breath, “but don’t worry, I am confident that the purple stone will protect me…”
They made their way to an underground river flowing through dark caves. “That is the portal to the bottom pit,” Atina pointed to the smallest cave opening.
Agawe worried that he was fully clothed to swim in the river but when Laidan dived in after Atina, Agawe followed with Nibor. They swam through the dark cave and came out the other end to a totally different world. The sky was dotted with gray clouds, the trees were dead and the wide endless ground powdered with ashes.
“You’re right, Atina… it’s endless!” Agawe sighed, “You have to go back now…”
“Please… if Nibor can take another rider…” her eyes were pleading, “I want to go… I can’t leave Gimokodan without seeing the bottom pit…”
“You could die in there…” Laidan reminded her.
“If Agawe is taking that risk, I’ll take the risk, too.”
Laidan’s eyes narrowed as he stared at Atina. He sighed, “If you want to go, then let’s go!”
Nibor spread his wings and they climbed up his back. The huge bird flew the expanse of the desolate land until they reached the edge of a vast cliff.
“So this is it… down this cliff is the pit!” Atina exclaimed.
“It’s a long drop…” Agawe looked down anxiously.
“I can do it,” Nibor assured them as they dived from the steep sinister cliff. The descent seemed endless and Agawe noticed Nibor’s exhaustion. Many times the bird would slow down before he picked up speed.
When they saw a thick fog, Agawe hoped to find a place to land beneath the mist. True enough, when Nibor entered the fog, a marshy ground became visible.
They found a dry area and hastily got off Nibor’s back. He transformed and slumped on the ground catching his breath.
Atina rushed to his aid, “Nibor… are you alright?”
The birdman muttered, “Just a little out of breath…”
“We’ll wait here until you are rested,” Agawe said.
“We have to find the lake of fire where the sinners are thrown into…” Atina stated. “The souls you are looking for are down a hollow rock on the edge of the lake… that’s what I’ve heard!”
“Agawe… look!” Laidan exclaimed.
Agawe turned and saw an iron gate slowly appear in the fog.
The Gate of Gimokodan
“The gate of Gimokodan! So it’s true…” Atina whispered. “The gate appears to receive the unrepentant souls. It must have thought we are souls coming in…”
The gate started to open. “We have to enter now… before it closes and disappears!” Laidan declared.
They turned to Nibor.
“I will stay here with Nibor,” Atina volunteered.
Laidan and Agawe ran to the gate and entered just as it shut closed. Agawe heard a gravely voice, “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.” It sent chills down his spine.
“Laidan… you think we can get out of here?” he whispered.
“We are not dead, Agawe… that warning is only for the dead sinners. No one is expected to enter that gate unless dead.”
“We could die in here…” he muttered.
The thick gray fog made it difficult for them to see what was in front of them but Agawe could hear the wailing and the weeping. The smell of sulfur and death hovered in the air.
A small torch appeared in Laidan’s hand and the thick fog lifted revealing a huge pit of fire and brimstone where the dead fought with each other to stay afloat. It was a revolting sight especially when the souls started slinking toward them.
Agawe and Laidan walked gingerly on the narrow ledge around the pit until they reached a hollow rock.
“This could be it… there’s an opening. Let’s go!” Laidan slid down the slippery rock. Agawe followed the Encantor.
Agawe was assaulted by the most unpleasant odor of sulfur when they landed. The small cave hewn out in the rock was dimly lit by the torch. Agawe felt his lungs would burst. He felt trapped in that small cell and was beginning to think that this journey to Gimokodan would never end. Then he heard a tune unlike the wailing and weeping outside.
“Shhhh….” Laidan listened intently. “They are inside these walls…” he said as he began to push here and there.
Agawe pulled his sword and the minute it touched the wall, the rocks fell down uncovering a very dark and small enclosure with a bright light floating in its midst. The sweet tune filled the air.
“That’s them!” Laidan stepped into the enclosure just as Agawe noticed that it was bottomless and instinctively reached out. He grabbed Laidan’s hand and pulled him up to safety. The torch fell into the endless depth.
“Thank you, Agawe…” Laidan was visibly shaken.
“You could have saved yourself from out there, right?”
“No, Agawe… Encantors are weak in a place like this. That is why we need you for this task. You are more powerful because…” he breathed deeply, “you are human.”
The Crystal Cage
Agawe wanted to ask questions but he decided it was not the right time. He stood on the edge of the enclosure and tried to reach the bright light with his glowing sword. To his amazement, the light jumped on the tip of the sword. It turned out to be a small crystal ball. “Laidan… are you sure they are in there?”
“I am sure, Agawe… the Buso King kept them safe inside this crystal so they don’t lose their powers.”
“Now let’s get out of here….” Agawe started to clamber up.
The climb up was made worse by the offensive slimy rocks. As Agawe finally hauled himself up, his heart sank at the sight of the dead all lined up on the ledge slowly ambling to where they were. They are dead, he thought, how can I fight with the dead? He sighed and braced for battle just as a huge black bird flew over the pit toward them.
“Nibor! So happy to see you…” Agawe jumped on the bird’s back after Laidan.
“Did you get the souls?” Nibor asked as he rushed past the closing gate.
“Yes… we did!” Laidan answered.
Nibor swooped down and Agawe grabbed the waiting Atina by the hand. As the huge bird soared back up the steep abyss, Agawe asked anxiously, “You think you can do this, Nibor?”
“Just hold tight… ”
Agawe heaved a sigh of relief when they cleared the gorge and flew over the barren field.
“Why did you stay behind?” Agawe asked Atina.
“It’s the gate of Gimokodan! It’s where the dead enters and never comes out.” She shook her head, “I don’t think I want to risk it…” After a moment, she asked, “Are you human?”
“I am beginning to think I’m not…” he smiled wanly.
They swam through the cave and came to the other side of the river where they were greeted by a frantic Ayong, “Encanta is gone…”
Read Chapter 12
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