Thundarr The Barbarian in The Wrath Of Crom

Chapter 13

As the seven adventurers arrive at the base of Wyrm Mountain, Wrath-Amon howls in anger while he watches them in his scrying pool. Unaware that they're being watched, they all dismount and collect their mountaineering equipment from their horses.

"I wish we could take our horses with us," says Thundarr, "I do not like the idea of leaving them behind for monsters and giant wolves to eat."

"Nor do I," agrees Conan, "But there are no immediate trails up the mountain to take. And time is of the essence. Those demons and Skulkur were definitely sent after us by Wrath-Amon, which means he's searching for the World Wand too."

Ookla howls at the others, bringing them running to his side.

"What is it?" asks Grey Wolf, "What did he say?"

"He says he found a cave where our horses might be safe," replies Thundarr.

Ookla points to a small gap between two large boulders. Conan looks inside. From the little bit of light that's slipping through the opening, Conan can see a fairly large cave. And he hears water inside, perhaps from an underground stream. Conan turns back to the mok.

"There's a cave in there all right," he says, "And it could house our horses for quite some time. But how are they supposed to get in there through this tiny gap in the rocks?"

Ookla gently (for a mok) nudges the raven haired barbarian aside. He grabs hold of one of the boulders blocking the entrance and picks it up with little, if any, effort. He sets it aside and then moves the other boulder. The entrance to the cave is now plenty large enough for the horses to walk through.

"You are truly useful to have around, my friend," Zula says to Ookla.

Ookla growls a reply.

"You are most welcome," replies the Wasai prince.

"You understood him?" asks Thundarr.

"We have resumed our lessons in mok speak since the demons have left our company," replies Zula, "Ookla here says I am becoming quite fluent."

The others all go into the cave to check and make sure it's safe. Sure enough, there's a pool of water at one end of the cave. It's being fed from a constant trickling through the walls, likely runoff from the melting ice and snow higher up the mountain. Jezmine tastes it, and it seems drinkable. They quickly go about hauling as many plants into the cave as possible to give the horses something to eat while they're away. When the cave is as habitable as possible, they lead their horses inside. Conan goes last, but his horse, Thunder, doesn't want to enter the cave.

"Stupid, stubborn beast," growls Conan, "Move it! It's for your own protection!"

"Thunder doesn't enjoy being cooped up," Jezmine explains to their new friends, "He won't even enter a city."

"We don't have time for this," says Thundarr.

"Don't tell me," replies Conan, "Tell him."

"Allow me fellas," says Ariel.

She raises her hands over her head and a yellow glow covers the black stallion's entire body. The horse stops its struggling and becomes suddenly docile. It slowly walks inside the cave with no protests. Ookla quickly replaces the boulders, thus keeping the larger predators out of the cave.

"Sometimes you just need a woman's touch," says the sorceress.

Thundarr smiles at that. Not so much because he found the comment humorous, but more because his friend is beginning to act and sound more like her old self. Now that their horses are safe, the seven companions begin climbing the steep mountainside. The day is half over, and Conan and Thundarr want to get as close to their destination as possible by nightfall. Wrath-Amon too, is growing impatient. He turns away from his scrying pool and heads over to his audience hall, where one of his most powerful minions awaits his commands. Kneeling before Wrath-Amon's throne is a reptilian humanoid creature with bat like wings and four arms.

"Windfang!" says the wizard.

"What is your command, my master?" says the creature.

"I have a job for you!"

"Tell me, oh mighty Wrath-Amon!"

"Conan and his friends are climbing Wyrm Mountain right now in an attempt to capture the World Wand. I want you to wait until they have acquired it, and then take it from them!"

"And what of Conan and his friends?"

"Teach them how to fly," says the wizard, "By throwing them off a cliff! Do not fail me, Windfang," warns Wrath-Amon, "I have already been disappointed by Skulkur, and my conjured demons. I am running out of patience."

"I swear it shall be done," says Windfang.

The winged henchman turns and leaves his master, leaping off the balcony and taking to the air to accomplish his mission. Wrath-Amon turns on his heels and marches back to the scrying chamber. He glares into the scrying pool, as though his sheer rage could somehow bring about the downfall of his sworn enemies. The evil wizard watches as Conan, Zula, Grey Wolf, Jezmine, and the newcomers, Thundarr, Ariel, and Ookla, climb up the side of the mountain. He smiles as Princess Ariel slips and falls, but growls in dismay as Grey Wolf catches her by the wrist as she falls past him and helps her to continue on their way. Again, Wrath-Amon's hopes are raised as some loose rocks tumble down upon their heads, but he slams his fist against the edge of his scrying pool in frustration as Ariel uses her magic to shield herself and her friends from the falling stones. Eventually, the sun sets and the friends set camp. They find a ledge wide enough to accommodate them all. There are still enough trees and bushes around to provide them with firewood, without having to resort to the bundles of wood they each carried. So they all bundle up against the cold, huddling together in order to share in their body heat. The next morning, they awake with the coming dawn. They stoke the embers of the fire to life, and use them to boil some tea. They eat a breakfast of dried meat and fruits, and then prepare to continue on their journey.

"Would you like to borrow some of my clothes?" Jezmine asks Princess Ariel, "I have an extra set of warm clothing that should fit you."

"I think I'll be alright, thank you," replies the sorceress.

"Are you sure?" asks Grey Wolf, "Don't get me wrong, your choice of outfit certainly is . . . attractive. But it is very impractical for the journey we have ahead of us."

"The mountains can get awfully cold, Princess," adds Conan, "Perhaps you should heed their advice."

"I thank you all for your concern," says Ariel, "But I'm quite alright."

"Very well," says Jezmine, "But the offer stands if you change your mind."

"Much appreciated, Thank you."

The band of adventurers starts climbing up the side of the mountain once again. They take few breaks for food and water, and when they do they're quite brief. But by the end of the second day of climbing, they had managed to scale quite high up the mountain. By the second night on the mountain, Ariel is beginning to look as though she may be regretting her decision to decline Jezmine's offer of warmer clothing. As she sits by the fire, she hugs her arms close to her body and rubs them briskly. Then Thundarr leads her over to the animal skins he had laid out as bedding. They sit on the skins together and he wraps them both in a large bear skin. She wraps her arms around his chest, rests her head upon his shoulder, then seems quite relaxed and content. Jezmine smiles to herself as she sees this.

"So that's why she doesn't want any warm clothing," she says to herself.

She certainly couldn't blame the sorceress. After all, Thundarr is very handsome. Crude, barbaric, stubborn, not very well educated, ill tempered, but very handsome. Princess Ariel falls asleep in Thundarr's arms. The others all pair up for warmth. Grey Wolf and Zula both huddle close to Ookla during the night. They find his furry hide most comforting during the cold night. And Jezmine and Conan spend the night in each other’s arms. As with Ariel and Thundarr, their mutual attraction for one another is often left unspoken. Once more they awake with the coming of dawn, breakfast on cold meat and hot tea, and then start on their way once more. They come upon a natural pathway leading up the mountainside. It's about five feet wide at most places, with a steep but not unmanageable slope. Thundarr and Conan wait on the trail until all of their friends have climbed up, then they head on up the mountain path. Not long after they had begun walking they find their path blocked by a great hairy beast with shaggy brown fur. It looks very much like the yeti that Thundarr had battled on the mountain slope when he had first arrived in Hyborea. Then they hear another beast roaring at them. They look behind and see another of these creatures coming up from behind, blocking off any chance of escape.

"Demon Dogs!" says Thundarr as he takes out his Sunsword and ignites the blade.

"Not quite, my friend," says Conan as he draws his Star Metal sword, "Yetis!"

"I thought yetis were white," says a confused Thundarr.

"Their colour changes to match their surroundings," says Conan, "To camouflage themselves so as to surprise their prey!"

Ookla howls in anger and steps towards the yeti that had come up from behind. Princess Ariel raises her hands and blasts the ground at the rear yeti's feet. The path crumbles away and the yeti goes tumbling down the mountainside. She then blasts the stones on the mountain wall next to the lead yeti, bringing them down on its head and sending him over the ledge to join its companion. Thundarr looks back at the sorceress with an annoyed expression on his face.

"Conan and I could have handled the yeti," he says.

Ookla howls his agreement that he too could have easily defeated the beast.

"We don't have time for this," says Ariel, "Wrath-Amon has already sent demons after us. Then he sent slavers, the undead, and then giants. Do you really want to waste time fighting some mindless beasts when we have bigger fish to fry?"

"What makes you think that the slavers and giants came from Wrath-Amon?" asks Jezmine.

"They had the feel of sorcery about them," she says.

"I noticed that too," says Grey Wolf, "It is unusual for slavers to attack a large and well-armed group such as us. And giants can be easily manipulated."

"Manipulated to shove people into their . . ." begins Zula.

"Bellies!" says Conan, cutting him off.

"Manipulation is like meat and potatoes of the demons that Wrath-Amon sent after us," says Grey Wolf, "And they would happily manipulate a giant into shoving a person into their . . . belly. Just for the joy of watching it happen."

"You mean to say that those demons have been following us all this time?" asks Thundarr.

"It's very possible," replies Grey Wolf.

"More like probable," adds Ariel.

"Then let's get going," says Zula, "The sooner we can get The World Wand, the sooner we can send those demons back to Hell!"

They continue walking up the mountain path. In some areas the path widens to at least ten feet in width, allowing them to walk two by two. In some areas, the path narrows to be barely a foot wide, forcing them to move slowly with their backs against the wall. Eventually, the path ends completely and they have to climb the side of the mountain, placing their hands and feet in any crack or crevice they can find. They manage to find a small cave in the side of the mountain. It's a tight fit, but they manage to all fit inside, and have just enough room for a small campfire. They manage to have a relatively restful, if not completely comfortable, night in the cave. They get very little actual sleep, though they do manage to dose here and there. In the morning, they head out once more. Finally, as the last rays of sunlight slowly dip beneath the western horizon, they arrive at their destination. It is a massive cave, with stalagmites and stalactites giving it the appearance of the gaping mouth of a giant carnivore. In fact, according to the map, this cave is called The Mouth of the Dragon.

"Lords of Light," says Thundarr.

"Is this where we're supposed to go?" asks Jezmine.

"That's what the map the old man gave us says," replies Conan.

"Then let us waste no time!" says Thundarr, and he strides forward without waiting for the others.

Conan draws his sword and runs to follow his friend. Zula takes out his crossbow and follows. Jezmine grabs a throwing star from her bracer and hurries to catch up. Grey Wolf follows with his magic staff at the ready. Ookla and Ariel bring up the rear, with Ookla's bow and Ariel's magic at the ready. They enter the cave and find Thundarr standing there, holding his Sunsword up like a torch. Ariel and Grey Wolf use their magic to add more light to the area, and then they see what had caused their friend to pause. There are four tunnels leading out of this first chamber.

"Crom," says Conan.

The others break out several torches and light them, handing one to each party member. Then they look about the cave for some kind of clue as to where they should go next.

"Well," says Conan, "There are four tunnels and seven of us. I say we split up."

"Correction," says Ariel, "There are seven tunnels. Look up there."

Ariel points to the wall above the tunnels. Sure enough, there are three more up above where the other four tunnels are located. Too high for most people to get to, and easily missed from down below.

"Seven tunnels then," agrees Conan, "And seven of us. I say one person to each tunnel."

"What if one of the women should find danger?" asks Thundarr.

"Then 'Danger' should start running in the opposite direction," replies Ariel.

"We cannot risk spending time searching every tunnel individually," adds Grey Wolf, "If one of Wrath-Amon's minions should discover the correct path to The World Wand while we're busy searching a false trail, he will waste no time in unleashing Set upon the world."

"It's agreed then," says Jezmine, "We each take a separate tunnel and see where it leads. Once we know which of these tunnels leads to The World Wand, we go there together and retrieve it."

"Aye," says Grey Wolf and Zula.

Ookla growls his agreement.

"I still think it's too dangerous to be searching these tunnels alone," says Conan, "But you are right. We cannot risk letting Wrath-Amon getting hold of The World Wand. I agree."

"Aye," says Thundarr, who is obviously not at all thrilled with the arrangement, "We shall split up."

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