Ookla exits the tunnel that
Thundarr had originally entered. He sniffs the air, trying to discern where his
friend had gone to. His keen mok senses tell him that both Thundarr and Conan
had in fact gone down the tunnel which Princess Ariel was exploring. Ookla
leaps up as high as he can, grabs the ledge of the tunnel floor, then pulls
himself up. Then he runs down the tunnel as fast as his legs can carry him.
There he finds Thundarr, Conan, and the wizard Grey Wolf, all tending to an
unconscious Princess Ariel. Ookla howls at them to tell him what is going on.
"It's Ariel," says Thundarr, "She's injured. Gideon had returned. He had assumed my form and then proceeded to drain the life from her. Glasya and Delilah tried to do the same to me and Conan. Luckily Needle realized in time to stop them before it was too late. We got here as fast as we could to save her, but I fear we may have been too late."
Ookla growls again.
"Grey Wolf says that if we can get her to his city, that he may be able to save her," explains Thundarr.
Ookla howls a reply in his bestial tongue.
"Nay, old friend," replies Thundarr, "We must find The World Wand first. If it falls into the wrong hands, than whatever hardships Ariel has suffered would have been in vain."
Ookla growls another question.
"You stay here and watch over her," replies Thundarr, "Conan, Grey Wolf and I will continue searching for this World Wand."
As Thundarr tries to stand, he loses his balance and stumbles into the tunnel wall. Ookla voices his concern.
"I'll be okay, old friend," says Thundarr, "You just worry about Ariel."
"Come," says Conan, as he takes Thundarr by the arm, "Let me help you."
"I'm fine," insists the blonde barbarian.
"I'm not asking, I'm telling," replies Conan, "That succubus drained more energy from you than you care to admit. I won't insist on you staying behind with Ookla and Ariel, but if you're going to be coming with me, you're going to have to let me help you."
"When I get my strength back . . ." begins Thundarr.
"You can do your best to best me in combat," Conan finishes for him with a laugh, "But I must point out that you haven't succeeded at that yet, and that was when you had your full strength."
The two barbarians and the wizard head farther into the tunnel, Thundarr being held up by his two new friends, leaving Ookla to care for the ailing Princess Ariel.
Jezmine finally reaches the end of her tunnel. She finds herself on the edge of a massive crevasse. There is a great stone archway on the ledge of the crevasse. On the far ledge, directly across the way, is an identical stone archway. There appears to be no way across.
"There must be a key to solving this puzzle," she says to herself.
"There usually is," says a voice behind her.
Jezmine jumps at the sound and turns around, shuriken at the ready. To her surprise, no one is there.
"Who said that?" she asks.
"I did," replies the voice.
"Who are you?"
"The Keeper of the Secret," says the voice.
"Can you tell me how to get across?"
"Yes I can," it replies.
"That, you must discover for yourself," it replies.
"I thought you said you would tell me!" shouts the acrobat angrily.
"No," says the voice, "I said that I can tell you the way across. But if I were to simply tell you how to do it, it wouldn't be much of a test. Now, would it?"
"Of course!" says the voice, "Only those most worthy may venture forth from here. You and Prince Zula are the first two to make it this far in over a millennium."
"Zula made it?"
"Oh yes! He should be coming along shortly. I'm afraid your other friends are not quite so fortunate."
"What?" says Jezmine, "What happened to them?"
"Not my doing, I'm afraid. Their trials were interrupted by outside interference. Whether they can persevere or perish is yet to be determined."
"Not my job. I'm sorry, but I really must be leaving you now. I do hope your friends do well. This whole ordeal has been most entertaining."
And then Jezmine is left alone in total silence.
Thundarr staggers along the long dark tunnel, Conan and Grey Wolf to either side of him, helping him to stay upright. They stagger down the tunnel together. Conan and Grey Wolf are holding up torches to light the way. Thundarr is bravely trying to keep his head up and move under his own power, but it is obvious that the encounter with The Queen of the Succubi has had a negative effect on him. Much more so than he tries to let on. His body is lathered in sweat as he presses onward, stubbornly refusing to quit. As the three of them press on, the tunnel fills with a mysterious fog. The mist is so thick they can't even see each other. It begins to make them cough, and Conan and Grey Wolf both let go of Thundarr's arms as they grasp their throats in a vain attempt to breathe.
"Demon . . . Dogs!" curses Thundarr.
"Crom!" chokes Conan.
"Mitra!" wheezes Grey Wolf.
The three of them all stagger and collapse from inhaling the mysterious fog. When they do, the fog dissipates, leaving the barbarians and their wizard friend lying unconscious on the tunnel floor.
Conan awakes to find himself lying in a very familiar bed. It's his bed! The one he slept in most of his life as he lived with his mother, father, and grandfather. He looks about, confused as to exactly how he got there. He hears someone banging pots and pans in the kitchen. Cautiously, he gets up out of bed. He creeps over to the door and opens it a crack. There, over by the fireplace, cooking their evening meal is his mother. And sitting at the dinner table are his father and grandfather.
"Mother!" cries the barbarian, and he runs over to the older woman and picks her up in a great hug, "You're alive!"
"Of course I am!" laughs his mother, "Why would I not be?"
"Father! Grandfather! You're both okay!"
"And it's good to see you're doing well too, son," says his father.
"But how?" asks Conan, "How did you reverse the Curse of Living Stone?"
"Curse of Living Stone?" asks Grandfather, "What are you talking about?"
"The wizard, Wrath-Amon!" says Conan, "He turned you all to stone! I've been searching for a cure ever since!"
"What are you talking about, son?" asks his father, "You've been here with us for months. Wrath-Amon has never even set foot in our village."
"What?" asks Conan, very confused, "But the Star Metal . . ."
"Conan, you've been very ill with fever," says his mother, "You must have dreamed this."
"No! It wasn't a dream! It was real! Zula, Grey Wolf, Jezmine, Snagg, and me, we all fought Wrath-Amon with our Star Metal weapons! We were searching all over for a cure for the spell Wrath-Amon cast upon you!"
"But Wrath-Amon cast no such spell," says his mother calmly, "And you have not left the village since the trades fair. You must have caught an exotic disease from one of those foreign travelers at the fair. Now get back into bed! I will bring you some soup."
"It was all just . . . a dream?" says Conan.
He staggers back to his bed, quite unsure as to what to make of all this.
Grey Wolf awakens in a nice soft bed. It takes him a moment to get his bearings. He realizes that he's lying in his own bed, back home in Xanthus. He gets up and quickly dresses. He has no memory of returning home at all. How did he get here? He leaves his room and goes downstairs, where to his surprise he sees his brother and sister, Sasha and Meesha, and they are no longer wolves.
"Sasha! Meesha!" cries Grey Wolf as he runs down the stairs, He buries his older siblings in a great hug, "You're alright! You're human again!"
"Weren't we always, little brother?" asks Meesha with a laugh.
"But the sorceress, Mesmira," says Grey Wolf, "She turned you into wolves with thorns from the lycanthrus plant!"
"I know of no sorceress by that name," says Sasha, confused.
"What?" asks Grey Wolf, "She is The Queen of Stygia!"
"We have not had dealings with Stygia for many years," says Meesha, "We have no interest in their politics."
"But she was here!" says Grey Wolf, "She was plotting to kidnap our earth wizards and force them to use their earth magic to help Wrath-Amon build his pyramids to Set!"
"We have uncovered no such plot," says Sasha.
"Come, little brother," says Meesha, "You have been unwell. You have been suffering from nightmares."
"You mean, it was all a dream?" asks Grey Wolf.
"Perhaps a good rest will make you feel better," offers the older wizard
"I shall brew you an Elixir of Vitality to get you your strength back," says his sister.
"Yes," says Grey Wolf, still very confused, "Perhaps you're right. Thank you."
Thundarr awakens in a large, soft bed with silken sheets and thick pillows tucked behind his head. He lifts the sheet which is draped over him and peaks underneath. Apparently he slept in this bed without a stitch of clothing on. Feeling very panicked, he begins looking around for his Sunsword. Something is most certainly wrong here. He had absolutely no memory of this place, or how he came to be here.
"Good morning, Lover," says a very sultry, feminine voice.
Thundarr looks over to see Princess Ariel in the doorway of this elaborately decorated bedroom, wearing a blue silk bathrobe which is tied about the waist by a golden cord. She's holding two gem encrusted goblets of pure gold in her hands. The sorceress very seductively walks towards the barbarian. She sits down on the edge of the bed, and hands one of the jeweled cups to Thundarr.
"I was beginning to think you would never wake up," she says.
"Where am I?" asks Thundarr, "What happened? Are you okay? How did we get here? Where's my Sunsword? How did you recover from the incubus?"
"Whoa!" says Princess Ariel, "So many questions! Do you want them in order, or in an order that makes sense?"
"Just answer me woman!" says the barbarian.
"My, such forcefulness!" she says, "You know I've always loved that about you."
Thundarr's grimace tells her that his patience is wearing thin. With a sigh, Ariel decides that the direct approach is needed in this instance.
"For your first question, you are in our bed, in our bedroom, in our palace, in our kingdom, where you and I rule together as King and Queen."
"What kingdom?" asks Thundarr.
"Mine, silly!" says the sorceress, "The one I inherited from my stepfather after we vanquished him?"
"Sabian is vanquished?" asks Thundarr.
"As are most of the evil wizards throughout the world," she tells him, "Oh one or two pop up every now and then, but they're no match for the two of us."
"The two of us?" asks Thundarr, "What about Ookla?"
"Oh, he has his own people to worry about, since he married Chief Ogrot's daughter."
"And my Sunsword?" he asks.
"On the top shelf of the wardrobe, right next to your bracers, just like always," says Ariel.
"How did we get here? Did we find The World Wand? How did you manage to recover from the incubus' attack?"
"We've always been here. Well, since defeating my stepfather anyways. And what is this World Wand you speak of?"
"The . . . magic wand that would bring us back to Earth from Hyborea?" he says.
"I have never heard of such a thing," says Ariel, "Nor have I ever been attacked by an incubus."
"But I remember . . ."
"You were dreaming, My Love," she says.
"Why do you call me that?" he asks.
"Well, we are married after all," she says with a laugh, "How did you think you became my king?"
"It was all a dream?" he says.
"If you ask me," says Ariel, "I much prefer reality."
With that, she sets aside her drink, unties the sash of her robe, and slips out of the silken garment. She then slips into bed with Thundarr, lies on top of him, and kisses the barbarian passionately on the mouth. Thundarr returns her embrace. He feels himself stiffen at her silky touch. Her hair smells sweet from the scented oils she adds to her bath water. He buries his face in between her breasts as she lifts herself up. Then she guides his manhood up inside her as she lowers herself back down. Then they begin grinding into one another, moving their bodies in synchronous rhythm with each other. Ariel moans in pleasure as she rides her husband's manhood. Their bodies both glisten with sweat as they approach climax. They move together, faster and faster, until finally they let out a primal scream of adulation at the very height of their pleasure. Then Ariel collapses into Thundarr's arms and they fall into a blissful, contented sleep.
Jezmine sits, staring at the twin arches with no apparent way to get across the crevasse, when Zula arrives behind her. The Wasai prince looks at the puzzle set before them.
"So what does it mean?" he asks.
Jezmine is so startled, she nearly falls from her perch on the ledge of the crevasse.
"Don't startle me like that," she says.
"My apologies," he says, "So, any luck?"
"Yes, plenty," says the acrobat, "Unfortunately it's all bad."
"There must be a way to cross," says Zula.
"There is," she replies, "I just haven't been able to find it yet."
"You sound certain," he says.
"I am," she replies, "The Keeper of the Secret told me that there is an answer. He just wouldn't tell me what it was."
"He should have at least left us some sort of clue!"
"I think these stone arches are the clue," says Jezmine, "I just have no idea what they mean."
"Should we try and find the others?" asks Zula.
"No," says Jezmine, "For one thing, we have no idea how to get to them. And for another, we would likely get ourselves killed going back through that gauntlet."
"I see your point," says the Wasai prince.
"I think you may be right," says the acrobat, "The clue to how to get across must be in these stone arches."
The two of them begin examining the stone arch with extreme precision. They search every nook and cranny of the arch, trying to find the elusive clue as to how to get across the crevasse. Yet no matter how hard they look, the arch still appears to be made of plain stone. There are no markings or etchings of any kind anywhere upon its surface. Once again, the acrobat and the Wasai prince sit down in frustration.
"We need Grey Wolf," says Zula, "Or Princess Ariel. Perhaps magic can reveal more than what our eyes can alone."
"Yes, but where are they?" she asks.
Back in the tunnel where they were left, Ookla sits protectively by Princess Ariel's side. The young sorceress is still unconscious from her ordeal with the incubus, Gideon. She moans and whimpers in her sleep. Ookla guesses that she must be dreaming. Whether her dreams are peaceful or nightmares, the mok can only guess. He picks up her leotard and dresses her. Then he wraps her up in Grey Wolf's cape. He picks up the discarded furs of the fake Thundarr and then carries her out of the tunnel, jumping down to the main chamber of this cave complex. Using the furs, Ookla makes a makeshift bed for Ariel, arranging things so that they would be as comfortable as possible. Then he sits, cradling her head on his lap, and he waits.