Hours pass before the effects of
Ookla's stun arrows wear off and Thundarr or Conan begin to come to. Thundarr
stirs first, slowly lifting his head off of his fur vest, which he'd been using
as a pillow. A second later, Conan too begins to stir.
"Lords of Light," says Thundarr, "What happened?"
"You and Conan tried to kill each other," replies Grey Wolf, "Had Ookla not knocked you two out with his stun arrows, and it’s very likely one of you would have succeeded."
"Crom's beard," says Conan, "What's going on? Where's Glasya?"
"It appears Glasya and her friends were not what they appeared," replies Zula.
"What are you talking about?" asks Conan, "What do you mean?"
"Glasya is a demon," explains The Hermit, "A very tricky one called a succubus. They seduce men and women, and then take their souls to Hell for eternal torment. Glasya is the Queen of All Succubi, and more powerful than any of her underlings."
"So what did they want with us?" asks Thundarr.
"It is my belief," says The Hermit, "that they were sent by Wrath-Amon, to destroy you."
"By pitting us against each other," says Jezmine as Wrath-Amon's scheme becomes clear.
"Exactly," replies the old wizard, "By having you kill each other, not only would you eliminate half your party, but those who survive will be forever tainted with the blood of the innocent. And that would make your souls all the easier to harvest."
"And we fell for it," says Zula, "Every last one of us."
"All except for Needle," says Conan, "I'm sorry, little friend. I shall never doubt you again," he says to the baby phoenix.
"Maybe big dumb barbarian appreciate Needle more now," says the magical bird.
"I promise you Needle," says Conan, "as soon as we get back to civilization, I'll buy you all the pomegranates you can eat."
"Oh boy! Pomegranates!" Shouts the bird as it flies loop-de-loops around the cave, "Needle gonna have pomegranates! All that Needle can eat?"
"All that Needle can eat," agrees Conan with a laugh.
"So," says Thundarr, "Who might you be, friend?"
"I am the wizard you've been seeking," says the old man.
"At your service," replies the wizard with a humble bow.
"We come to ask your advice," says Grey Wolf, "We seek The World Wand. Rumor has it, you know where it might be found."
"The World Wand?" he asks, "If you want my advice, don't look for it. You'll live longer."
"We must find it," says Zula, "It's the only way we can get our friends here back to their own world."
"And their world might hold the cure to my brother and sister's lycanthropy," adds Grey Wolf.
"Please sir," says Jezmine, "It is the only chance to get Thundarr, Ariel, and Ookla back to their own world."
"Why not just stay?" The Hermit asks, "This world isn't so bad. And we could use a group of heroes to help thwart the plans of Wrath-Amon."
"And leave our own world to the mercy of the wizards?" asks Thundarr, "I'd rather not."
"Not all wizards are evil, my friend," replies The Hermit.
"They are where we come from," argues Thundarr.
"I suppose you would know that better than I," says The Hermit with a sigh, "Very well. I shall help you."
"Thank you," says Conan with all sincerity.
"You might not thank me after you learn where you must go," replies The Hermit, "for The World Wand rests in the heart of Wyrm Mountain."
"Worm Mountain?" asks Thundarr, "That doesn't sound too dangerous."
"Not Worm Mountain, my friend," says Grey Wolf, "Wyrm Mountain. W-Y-R-M, not W-O-R-M."
"What's the difference?" asks Thundarr.
"A worm is a squiggly little thing that lives in the dirt, and are generally harmless," explains the young wizard, "A wyrm, however, is another word for dragon. Specifically, a particularly large and powerful dragon. And I guarantee you, any place called Wyrm Mountain is not going to be a fun place to visit."
"Fun? Likely not," says Conan, "But if it's necessary to get our friends home, then that's where we'll go."
"Very well," says the old wizard, and he pulls a rolled up parchment out of his robes. "In that case, you will need this," and he hands the parchment to Conan. "It will point you in the right direction."
Conan takes the parchment and unrolls it. It is a map, showing the way to Wyrm Mountain from the desert. The barbarian carefully rolls the map back up and puts it with his belongings.
"My thanks, Old One," he says to The Hermit.
"And mine," says Thundarr.
The aged wizard nods his head in reply, and then with a flourish of his hands, disappears in a burst of flame and puff of smoke. Once the wizard has left, Princess Ariel gets up and walks away from the others without a word. Grey Wolf watches her leave, a look of concern on his face. She has been unusually quiet ever since the wizard showed up and ran off the demons. When everyone else has settled in to sleep, the young wizard gets up and goes after the sorceress. He finds her tending to the horses.
"Are you okay?" he asks her.
Ariel practically jumps out of her skin.
"You startled me," she says.
"My apologies," says Grey Wolf, "that was not my intent. I was worried about you. You seem unusually quiet. Is everything okay?"
"Yes," she says, not very convincingly, "I'm fine."
"I know I haven't known you for very long," says Grey Wolf, "but I can still tell that something troubles you. Tell me. Please. Perhaps I can help."
"I'm fine!" she says more forcefully, "It's just . . . I should have seen it."
"I should have seen through Gideon's disguise! All of their disguises! I'm a powerful sorceress, and they had me completely duped!"
"They are powerful demons," says Grey Wolf, "The spies and assassins of Hell. There's no way you could have known."
"No! I'm a sorceress! I should have known when magic was being used against me! I should have realized I was under a spell! I should have stopped him before he . . . Oh gods! The things he did to me! The things I let him do to me! I'm so ashamed!"
And the ever strong Princess Ariel breaks down in tears. She buries her head in Grey Wolf's shoulder and just unloads a torrent of tears. He holds her gently in his strong arms as she sobs into his shoulder. Carefully, he lowers her to the sandy floor and sits next to her during her emotional release.
Hours later, after Ariel has finished crying, the two spell casters return to the others. Zula, Ookla, and Jezmine are all asleep. Conan and Thundarr, well rested after the effects of Ookla's stun arrows had worn off, are up and about.
"Where have you two been?" asks Thundarr.
"Seeing to the horses," replies Grey Wolf, "and having a good talk."
"Get some rest," says Conan, "Thundarr and I will keep watch."
"Are you sure?" asks Ariel.
"Absolutely," agrees Thundarr, "We will wake you if anything happens."
Ariel and Grey Wolf go to their beds and settle in for the day, while Thundarr and Conan return to the main chamber. They stay up all day, watching the entrance and making sure nothing spooks the horses. The two barbarians spend the day renewing their friendship, and mending their fractured relationship. The day passes uneventfully. By the time the sun sets, the sand storm has passed. The two barbarians rouse their friends. They pack up their belongings, saddle their horses, and head out towards Mount Wyrm.