Thundarr The Barbarian in The Wrath Of Crom

Chapter 19

Thundarr, Conan, and Grey Wolf all awaken from their forced slumbers with a start. Disoriented, they look about the tunnel, desperately trying to get their bearings.

"Demon Dogs!" pants Thundarr, "Do you know me?"

"You're Thundarr, by Crom," says Conan, "What of you? Do you know me?"

"Aye! You are Conan!" says Thundarr, "Then I am no longer dreaming?"

"None of us are," says Grey Wolf, as he gets back to his feet, "We have finally conquered our dreams."

"What happened?" asks Conan.

"The gas," says Grey Wolf, "It carried with it an enchantment. It caused us to sleep, and dream our fondest dreams were reality. I dreamed that my brother and sister had not been turned into wolves."

"And I dreamed that my family had never been turned to stone," says Conan.

"I dreamed that all of the evil wizards of my world had been vanquished," says Thundarr, "and that Ariel had regained her kingdom, and taken me as her husband."

"We were all given a choice, my friends," says the wizard, "To die in a beautiful lie, or live in a harsh reality."

"Obviously we've all chosen reality," says Conan.

"Aye," agrees Thundarr, "Though I must admit, I was very tempted to choose the dream."

"That was the point of that trap," says Grey Wolf, "To waylay us with temptation. We needed to destroy our own temptations to return to reality."

"You mean you . . ." begins Conan.

"Killed my entire family," Grey Wolf finishes the thought.

"As did I with my family," says Conan.

"I strangled Ariel with my bare hands," says Thundarr, "After having made love to her."

"I did not know you and Ariel had that kind of relationship," says Grey Wolf.

"We don't," admits Thundarr.

"Then your heart must secretly desire one," says Conan.

"Enough talk!" exclaims Thundarr, "Time is short, and so is my patience!"

The blonde barbarian takes a few steps forward, then collapses and falls to his knees. Conan and Grey Wolf rush over and pick him up by his arms.

"Easy friend," says Conan, "You are still weak from Glasya's deception. That magical gas knocked us all out, but I doubt it was more than for a few minutes."

"But I was with my family for several days," says Conan in confusion.

"As was I," says Grey Wolf, "But time moves differently in our dreams than when we're awake. At least, so I've been told."

"Let us move on, then!" says Thundarr impatiently, "We have friends who need our help."

_____________________________________________________________________

Zula and Jezmine sit at the edge of the crevasse, still pondering the puzzle before them. They still have no idea of how to possibly get across. They are certain that these arches have something to do with the answer. They just still have no idea as to how to use them. Suddenly they hear a noise behind them. Zula takes aim with his crossbow, while Jezmine grabs a throwing star and prepares to throw it at whatever is approaching. They both lower their weapons with a sigh of relief when they see that it's Conan, Thundarr, and Grey Wolf approaching.

"Thank the gods!" exclaims Jezmine.

"Are you guys alright?" asks Zula.

"Fine," replies Thundarr.

"Really?" says Jezmine, "You don't look it."

"We had a run in with Glasya and her minions," explains Conan, "Thanks to Needle, I was able to see Delilah for what she really was before it was too late."

"Ariel and I weren't quite so lucky," says Thundarr.

"Where is Ariel?" asks Jezmine.

"Conan came running to my aid after he had dispatched Delilah back to Hell," replies Thundarr, "But by the time we got to Ariel, Gideon had drained much of her life away. Had Grey Wolf gotten there any later than he did . . ."

"She is unconscious," says Conan, "Ookla and Needle are staying with her."

"Is that why you are so late in arriving, blood brother?" asks Zula.

"Well," says Conan, "We also had a slight problem getting through the tunnel we were in."

"A trap," says Grey Wolf, "A sleep gas which produces dreams so beautiful, you never want to wake from them."

"That doesn't sound like much of a trap," says Zula.

"If you decide to remain in the dream, you don't wake up," replies Grey Wolf.

"You'll die of thirst and starvation in a few days," explains Conan, "all the while believing your fondest wish had come true."

"I see," says Jezmine, "Well, we've been stuck here, trying to figure out how to get across this crevasse."

"We're sure the two arches have something to do with it," adds Zula, "But for the life of us, we can't figure out what."

Grey Wolf walks up to the arch and examines it closely. He conjures a light with his staff and examines the arch from every angle. He stands for several minutes of scratching his chin, saying nothing as he contemplates the problem. Then his face brightens up as he snaps his fingers in celebration.

"I think I've got it!" he exclaims.

"What?" asks Jezmine.

Rather than answer the acrobat, Grey Wolf takes his magic staff and touches The Claw of Heaven to the arch. The arch glows a brilliant blue radiance, as mystic runes appear upon the stone.

"Crom," gasps Conan, "What spell did you cast?"

"No spell, my friend," says the wizard, "It is the power of the Star Metal."

"You mean Zula and I could have revealed that writing at any time?" asks Jezmine.

"Don't feel too bad for not having thought of it," says Grey Wolf, "You are not schooled in the ways of magic, while I was born and raised in the city of Xanthus."

"What does that writing mean?" asks Thundarr, who can barely read in English let alone an ancient tongue from a distant world.

"It says, 'He who walks with his eyes closed can sometimes see a clearer path than he who keeps his eyes open.'," quotes the wizard.

"What does that mean?" asks Conan.

"I . . . I'm not sure," admits Grey Wolf.

"Great," says Thundarr, "Solve a puzzle just to read a riddle."

"Correction," says Jezmine, "We must solve the riddle, not just read it."

"But how?" asks Conan, "What does it mean?"

"I have an idea," says Zula.

The Wasai prince picks up a handful of dirt, steps underneath the arch, and then throws the dirt out across the crevasse. The dirt just falls freely through the air, unobstructed. Zula turns back with a disappointed look on his face.

"Damn!" he says, "I thought the line about seeing a clearer path with your eyes shut meant that the bridge across was invisible. But if it were, then the dirt would have landed on the bridge, making it visible."

"A good try though, my friend," says Conan.

"Aye," agrees Thundarr, "I wish Ariel were here. She could just conjure up a bridge for us."

"What about your magic cape?" asks Jezmine.

"Ariel is using it as a blanket," explains Grey Wolf, "Her encounter with Gideon nearly killed her."

"Then all that's left is to answer this riddle," says Zula.

"Impossible!" exclaims Jezmine, "It can't possibly be that simple! Could it?"

"What are you talking about girl?" asks Thundarr.

Jezmine doesn't answer. Instead, she steps underneath the stone arch. Then she closes her eyes, carefully places a single foot out over the crevasse, and then lowers it. Her foot feels as though she has stepped on a bridge of solid stone. She opens her eyes and looks down. Immediately, the sensation of standing on solid stone disappears and she nearly topples over the edge to plummet to her death. At the last second, she grabs the stone arch and catches herself.

"We must cross the crevasse with our eyes closed," explains the acrobat, "Do not open them for anything. Just go slowly and place one foot directly in front of the other."

Then the circus acrobat demonstrates by walking across the invisible bridge. She slides her feet to feel her way, making sure she lines her heel up directly with her toes. To the others she appears to be walking across on thin air. Grey Wolf follows the acrobat's example. Next follows Zula. Thundarr stands up straight and begins to walk over to the crevasse, but just as he's stepping under the arch he loses his balance and leans against the stone. Conan runs up to his new friend and helps him up.

"I'm fine," argues Thundarr, "I don't need anyone's help."

"You aren't fine," replies the Cimmerian, "You are sweating like a galloping horse. You can barely stand, let alone walk across a bridge with your eyes closed."

"I can make it!" says Thundarr.

"And if you can't?" asks Conan, "Where does that leave Princess Ariel?"

"It's not that far!" says the blonde barbarian.

"To walk? Nay, it is not," says Conan, "But it is a very long way to fall."

"I will not be treated like an invalid!" says Thundarr.

"You're not," says Conan, "You're being treated as a friend. A friend who is very ill."

Thundarr growls angrily and throws a punch at Conan. Conan easily blocks the clumsy attack, catches Thundarr by the wrist, and then throws him over his shoulder and to the ground. Thundarr hits hard. He tries to get back up, but doesn't have the strength and collapses. The raven haired Cimmerian stands over him looking down upon his friend.

"You see?" he says, "When we first met, you and I were equals as warriors. Neither of us could claim victory over the other. Now you're so weak, you can't even recover from a single throw."

"Fine," says Thundarr, "You win. I shall stay here and await your return."

"Your word of honor?" asks Conan.

"Barbarian to barbarian," agrees Thundarr.

Satisfied, Conan nods his head in agreement. He goes over to the ledge of the crevasse, just under the arch. The others are almost completely across now. He closes his eyes, and then carefully walks out across the invisible bridge, fighting the urge to open his eyes to check to see if he's going straight. Eventually, he reaches the other side.

"What kept you?" asks Jezmine.

"I had to convince Thundarr that he was in no condition to cross an invisible bridge with his eyes closed," explains Conan, "He can barely walk with his eyes open after his encounter with Glasya."

"I take it he was not very receptive to the idea of staying behind," says Grey Wolf.

"He's as stubborn as an ox," says Conan, "And just as strong."

"That sounds familiar," says Jezmine with a little smirk.

"Come on," says Conan, "We have a World Wand to find, and two very ill friends to save."

With that, the raven haired barbarian enters the tunnel in the cavern wall across from this side's stone arch. Jezmine, Zula, and Grey Wolf follow close behind. On the far side of the crevasse, Thundarr watches his four friends enter the tunnel as he sits with his back resting against a stalagmite. Once the last of them disappears from view, he closes his eyes and allows exhaustion to overtake him and falls into a deep slumber.

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