Thundarr The Barbarian in The Wrath Of Crom

Chapter 20

Conan, Zula, Grey Wolf, and Jezmine walk single file along a long and narrow tunnel. Stalactites leer down at them like the stone teeth of some monstrous beast. The flickering light of their torches does little to lessen the creepy feeling this tunnel gives them. Yet the four of them swallow their anxiety and press on. The tunnel finally opens up into an enormous cavern. The cavern is littered with thousands of gold coins and sparkling jewels piled into huge mounds the size of houses. There are magnificent suits of metal armor, swords, axes, and shields which practically glow with histories of legendary feats of heroism. It is a treasure greater than the combined wealth of a thousand kings. And mixed in amongst the gold, jewels, and the magnificent swords and shields, are the remains of those who were foolish or desperate enough to try and take the treasure from its guardian. Of the guardian, there is no physical sign. However, across from the tunnel in which they had entered, the four friends see a massive cave. While it is way too deep and dark for them to see more than a few feet past the threshold, they can hear the steady rhythmic breathing of the cave's occupant. They put all of this out of their minds, however, when they see what's in the center of the cavern they now stand in. On a stone dais, sits a marble pedestal. And on that marble pedestal, sits a red velvet cushion. And resting upon that red velvet cushion is what can only be The World Wand. It is a three foot length of polished ivory, with gold caps on either end. On one end, there is a large red crystal or gemstone, like a ruby or a garnet, roughly the size of a grown man's fist.

Conan and his three friends climb the stairs leading to the pedestal. They look upon the magical treasure with a sense of awe. Even Conan, who knows precious little about sorcery, can feel the power emanating from this mystical device. It verily hums with power. Looking around at all of the human remains strewn about the massive cavern, Conan reminds himself of their need for haste. Summoning all of his courage, the Cimmerian reaches out to grab The World Wand.

"STOP!" shouts a loud, booming voice which shakes the very ground.

From out of the cave comes an enormous dragon with bright blue scales. The wyrm, moving at a speed which seems impossible for a creature its size, coils about the dais blocking any possible escape by the four humans. The great dragon glares down at Conan and his friends as they look up at it in awe. The dragon leans its head in close, bares its fangs, and growls like a giant guard dog.

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In the main chamber of the cave complex, Ookla sits with the unconscious Princess Ariel. Gently, the powerful mok brushes a stray hair from her face. Her complexion is unusually pale, and she is sweating profusely. Whatever Gideon had done to her, she didn't look well. Ariel shivers under Grey Wolf's cloak. The sorceress mumbles incoherently in her sleep, which seems to Ookla to be anything but restful. Ookla lets out a great bestial sigh as he laments not being able to do more for his dear friend. Suddenly, Ookla hears a horrible screeching sound coming from outside the cave. Quickly, the mok breaks off a piece of a stalagmite to use as a club and stands protectively over Princess Ariel's prone form. Seconds later, three winged creatures, which look to be half man, half dragon, fly into the cave. Windfang breathes a fireball at Ookla. Instinctively, the mok swings his club at the fireball, striking it with all his might. The resulting explosion hurls Ookla down onto the cave floor, flat on his back, and sends his stone club flying across the cave.

"You two finish off these two," says Windfang to his minions, "I'll seek out the others!"

And after a moment of sniffing the air to figure out which way to go, Windfang flies into the tunnel where Conan, Thundarr, and Grey Wolf had disappeared, for it had the strongest scent. Meanwhile, the other two dragon-men swoop down on Ookla just as the mok is getting back to his feet, each grabbing one of his arms. Unfortunately for them, they had never fought a mok before and had no idea of the extraordinary, superhuman strength of these leonine creatures. Ookla grabbed the two of them by their necks, then howling in rage, slammed their heads together with a satisfying 'crack'. Then the mok lifts them both up over his head and then throws them across the cave, where they hit the rock wall with a loud 'thud' Ookla runs after Windfang, climbing up into the tunnel the dragon-man had entered and running after him. Several feet into the tunnel, Ookla stops dead in his tracks. Up ahead is Windfang, lying on the ground in a deep slumber. All about the dragon-man is a mysterious yellow mist or fog. It reminds Ookla of the form the evil wizard Argoth used to travel around back home, before Thundarr threw him into The La Brea Tar Pits. It definitely has the feel of sorcery about it, so Ookla slowly backs away and goes to check on Ariel.

When Ookla returns to the cave, he finds that Princess Ariel is right where he had left her. She was still unconscious, and hadn't moved an inch. Neither had those two dragon-men that attacked them. Ookla calmly walks over to them, picks them up, and then carries them out of the cave. Once outside, he throws them both off the cliff, one after the other. Then the mok dusts off his hands and walks back inside. He sits back down next to Princess Ariel and awaits his friends return.

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Windfang awakens in a bed he doesn't remember getting into, in a room he does not recognize. The dragonoid tries to sit up, but finds himself too weak to even get up on his elbows. The next thing he knows, Jezmine is sitting in a chair next to his bed, her hand on his chest holding him down.

"You're not going anywhere!" she orders him, "The poison may have finally left your system, but you're still very weak."

"Wh . . . Wha . . . Jezmine?" he asks, "What are you doing here?"

"Nursing you back to health," she says matter of factly.

"Wh . . . Why?"

"Because," she says, "We're not enemies. In some ways, we never were."

"But . . . Wrath-Amon . . ."

"Is no more," she says, "He has been vanquished, and all of his evil sorcery has been undone by the wizards of Xanthus. They've even lifted your curse."

"My . . . curse?" says Windfang, and he looks at his hands. Where there were once the scaly clawed hands of a dragonoid, are now the smooth tanned hands of a man.

"I'm . . . human again?" he asks, almost afraid to believe it.

"Windfang is no more," says Jezmine, "You are once again General Venturas from Koth. Wrath-Amon is no more, so you can never be cursed again."

"General Venturas?" says the former minion of Wrath-Amon, "I'm General Venturas?"

"Deep down, you always have been," says Jezmine.

"You . . . You mentioned something about a poison?"

"Yes. That yellow mist in the caves of Wyrm Mountain. They were some sort of toxic fumes. You breathed in an awful lot of it. You were lucky we got you out of there in time. It would have killed a lesser man. But you, being a dragon creature at the time, were far hardier than most. Still, it kept you out of action for many weeks."

"And you stayed here? With me?" he asks.

"Well, I at least made sure you had someone here looking after you. They trickled water, broth, and fruit juice down your throat so you wouldn't die of thirst or starvation."

"So . . . Does this mean I'm forgiven for working for Wrath-Amon?"

"Let's just say, I'm open to the possibility of your redemption," replies Jezmine.

"And what of us?" asks Venturas, "Are we to become friends?"

"I wouldn't hold your breath," says Jezmine, "If it happens at all, it won't be any time soon."

"I can wait," says the human who was once Windfang, as he lies back comfortably in his bed.

Back on the tunnel floor, Windfang slumbers quite contentedly as he dreams that he is no longer bound into service to the hated Wrath-Amon.

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In the treasure room, Conan, Zula, Grey Wolf, and Jezmine all turn back to back and face outward as they are surrounded by the gargantuan wyrm. They all look upon the great beast, in all its awesome majesty, and realize just how pathetic their weapons would be against such a creature. The ancient wyrm glares upon them. A great gust of foul air bursts forth from its enormous nostrils as it exhales into the intruders faces.

"Who dares enter my home?" asks the dragon in its loud booming voice.

"I, Conan of Cimmeria, so dare!" says the barbarian, sounding much braver than he truly feels.

"What gives you the right to trespass in Wyrm Mountain?" asks the dragon.

“We are on a quest!" says Conan, "We need The World Wand to aid our friends in returning home!"

"That is a mighty gift which you seek," says the dragon, "What makes you think you are worthy of receiving it?"

"I have passed your test of wills!" says Conan, "I was not deterred by pleasant dreams of my fondest wish coming true!"

"Nor was I!" adds Grey Wolf.

"I did not succumb to your nightmare!" says Zula, "Where all of my worst fears became reality!"

"And I had made it past all of your death traps!" says Jasmine.

"Child's play," huffs the dragon.

"I also solved the puzzle of the archway!" says Grey Wolf.

"And I solved the riddle of the invisible bridge!" adds Jezmine.

"Is that all?" asks the dragon.

"And we seek only to keep it from the hands of those who will use it for evil purposes, and to help our most noble of friends get home!" says Conan.

"Admirable," says the dragon, "But I'm still not convinced."

"What then, mighty dragon, can we do to prove our worth?" asks Grey Wolf.

"You have passed every test I had placed before you!" says the dragon, "Now all that is left is one last challenge. If you succeed, you may take The World Wand. If you fail . . . it is probably best if you do not know what happens then."

"What is your challenge, wyrm?" asks Conan.

"You are walking along an underground tunnel when the tunnel splits into two. One tunnel leads to untold riches and a happy, long, and healthy life. The other tunnel leads to certain death. Which tunnel goes where, however, is unknown. There are two iron golems guarding these two tunnels. You are allowed to ask only one of them, just one question to figure out which tunnel is the one which leads to wealth beyond imagining. The problem is, one of these golems always lies, the other always tells the truth. And, like the two tunnels, you do not know which one is which. With only the one question to ask, what do you ask the golems that would tell you the correct way to go, no matter which golem answers the question? So, what do you ask?"

"Another riddle?" says Conan.

"Is that your question?" asks the dragon.

"NO!" shouts the entire group.

Conan, Zula. Jezmine, and Grey Wolf all huddle together discussing the possible answers to the riddle. After several moments of conferring with each other, Grey Wolf steps away from the group and approaches the wyrm.

"I have an answer to your riddle!" says the wizard.

"Yes?" says the dragon.

"I would ask the iron golem on the left, 'If I were to ask the iron golem on the right if the tunnel on the left were the way to untold riches, what would he say?' Then, no matter what he says, I would do the opposite!"

"But what if the iron golem you asked was telling the truth?" asks the dragon.

"If he were telling me the truth about what the other says, then that means that whatever the other golem says would be a lie and the opposite would be the truth!" says the wizard.

"And if the iron golem is lying?" asks the dragon.

"If the iron golem is lying about what the other golem would say, than that means that the other golem is speaking the truth! Thus the opposite of whatever the golem tells me is always the truth!"

"Very good!" says the dragon, "You have solved my riddle. You may take The World Wand if you so choose. You have earned it."

"We thank you, mighty wyrm." says Grey Wolf with a humble bow.

Conan walks over to the pedestal and picks The World Wand up off of its velvet cushion. As soon as the wand is within his grasp, a mystical whirlwind whirls about them, going faster and faster, until they disappear into a miniature tornado. The tornado speeds out of the treasure room and down the tunnel towards the bridge. It crosses the crevasse at an incredible speed. Thundarr is sitting on the far end of the crevasse, resting in an attempt to get his strength back. He sees the miniature tornado and struggles as he rises to his feet.

"Lords of Light!" he exclaims as he grabs hold of his Sunsword and quickly ignites the blade.

The whirlwind comes upon the barbarian quickly. Even if he were at full strength, it would be unlikely if he could dodge this tornado. Weakened as he is by Glasya's seduction? He doesn't stand a chance. The tornado scoops him up and then continues on down the tunnel where Windfang slumbers. The tornado picks up the dragonoid and carries him along as well.

Back in the main entrance, Ookla and Needle maintain their vigil over the fallen Princess Ariel. Suddenly a miniature tornado exits the tunnel that Thundarr, Conan, and the others had disappeared down. Ookla stands over Ariel's prone body and roars at the approaching whirlwind. Needle starts flying madly around the room, squawking in a panic. The tornado picks them both up and carries them away. Down below, in the cave which is serving as the stables for the group's horses, The tornado appears out of nowhere and scoops up all of the mounts and the gear that was left behind. Then as suddenly as it arrived, the tornado disappears.

In the town square of the city of Xanthus, right next to the great magical water fountain, a great whirlwind appears. As it dissipates, it reveals the seven adventuring heroes and their mounts, as well as Wrath-Amon's dragonoid henchman, Windfang. Conan, Zula, Jezmine, Thundarr, and Ookla look about at the city in wonder. Only Grey Wolf seems unaffected by their sudden arrival in the city of wizards. That's hardly surprising though, since he himself is a wizard and this city is his home. Two older wizards see the adventurers arrive and approach them. One of the wizards is tall and thin, with a long white beard. The other is shorter and rounder, with a beard which is short, neatly trimmed, and is mostly gray with a few black hairs here and there throughout.

"Hail and well met!" greets the taller of the two wizards.

"Welcome home Grey Wolf!" says the other.

"Well met," says the young wizard, "And it is good to be home. Please, our friends need help. One of them is gravely injured."

"Let me see," says the tall wizard, and he kneels down next to Princess Ariel and feels her pulse.

"Her heartbeat is steady, but weak," says the wizard, "What happened to her?"

"She was attacked by an incubus," replies Grey Wolf.

"We must get her to my home! Quickly!" says the wizard, "She has lost a great deal of energy and cannot last much longer!"

"I'll take her," says Thundarr, and he moves to pick up the sorceress.

As the barbarian kneels down to pick up his friend, he loses his balance and falls over onto his side. The old wizard looks at him and sees that his skin is unusually pale and he is covered in sweat.

"Are you alright, my son?" he asks.

"I'm fine!" snaps Thundarr, "And no wizard sired Thundarr!"

"I meant no offense," says the wizard, "I only meant that you look ill."

"He is ill," says Grey Wolf, "He too was attacked by a demon, a succubus."

"Then he should come too," says the old wizard, "And make haste, we haven't much time."

Zula helps Thundarr to his feet, while Conan picks up Ariel and carries the sorceress in his arms as they follow the old mage to his home. Meanwhile, Grey Wolf stays behind with the shorter of the two wizards that had come to greet them.

"What of this one?" asks the older wizard as he looks upon the slumbering form of Windfang.

"Lock him up and post a guard," says Grey Wolf, "If he never awakens from his dream, then we will be forever rid of his meddling on Wrath-Amon's behalf. If he does awaken from his slumber, we should do our best to keep him from returning to Wrath-Amon's side."

"Can your wizard’s council undo Wrath-Amon's curse?" asks Jezmine, "Make him human once more?"

"Possibly," says the older wizard, "If Wrath-Amon's black ring were to be destroyed, and Wrath-Amon himself banished or slain, it is poss

"But as long as Wrath-Amon is around . . ." says Grey Wolf.

"Venturas' suffering continues," concludes the acrobat.

The older wizard casts a spell, causing Windfang's body to levitate in the air.

"I shall take him to the dungeons," says the wizard, "You go see Sasha and Meesha. I'm sure that they've missed you."

"And I have missed them," says Grey Wolf, "Plus, I have some wonderful news! News of a possible cure!"

"Go then," says the older wizard, "I can handle this job myself."

Grey Wolf turns to Ookla, the only other member of the party besides Jezmine not helping carry Princess Ariel to seek medical attention.

"Come, my friend," he says, "I want you to meet my brother and sister. Then I will take you on a tour of the city, so that you may experience all of the wonders that my city has to offer."

Ookla growls a reply, which Grey Wolf doesn't understand. He turns and looks at Jezmine, who had been studying the mok's language almost as soon as they had met him.

"I'm pretty sure that means 'yes'," says the acrobat.

"Then follow me," says Grey Wolf, and he leads his two remaining friends over to his family's palace.

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