The Hero of Legend

Chapter 24: The Mirror of Ra

"Now I don't mean to make light of our current situation," said Ron when they had arrived at the cave, "but can someone explain to me how we are once again charging into a monster-filled area without a map or directions of any kind? Especially since this time we had a person with a lot of knowledge of this cave?"

The kingly man had explained before the group left that although Samanaon royalty were told precisely where the cave was they were not given any help in navigating the cave. Samanaon tradition truly did not want the Mirror of Ra to be taken and used at a whim and so if a monarch were to try to remove the Mirror a monster-filled cave would ensure that monarch had very good reason.

It took the group two days to go from the cave they had been hiding in to the cave holding the Mirror of Ra. The trip took them through the hills surrounding Samanao Castle and to the tall grasslands beyond. Their trip took them to the southeast corner of Samanao. Samanao had large, impassable mountains on most of its border but on the southeast corner was a lake. Going off of the king's directions the group found a small bridge concealed by the water.

The bridge was underneath the water and designed to blend in with the lake on even the clearest of days so that it would not be randomly found. Since there were few settlements past the hills this further decreased the chances that the bridge would be found. The four waded through the water, which came to about waist height, and eventually came upon a tiny patch of land that had looked inconspicuous from the distance. The land was covered in poisonous marsh which normally would inflict injuries on anybody just from trying to cross. Alice had cast a spell upon the group that caused them to levitate about a foot off the ground, keeping the four from being harmed by the marsh.

Now the four had made it to the cave where Ron had pointed out that, as usual, the group was going blind into dangerous territory. On the other hand, Alice was undeterred.

"We'll just have to be the first to map this cave then!" she said cheerfully.

"Wouldn't that be disrespecting Samanaon custom to map this cave?" asked Ron.

"I thought about that and the answer is no," answered Alice with a large grin. "Technically, it's against their custom for the king to map out the cave. King Crayton never said anything about other people mapping out the cave."

"Doesn't that go against the spirit of the law?" asked Ron. "I think the idea is that as little knowledge of the cave is preserved as possible."

"Well it's not like I plan on selling copies of the map! And we're already breaking their laws by being here!" protested Alice. "But fine Ron! If you want to go through a monster-infested cave without keeping track of where we've been then that's what we'll do!"

"That won't be necessary," cut in Suzanne, trying to end their argument. "We'll handle this cave the same way we handle every cave."

The first chamber of the cave was spacious with two hallways coming off of it: one directly in front of the group and one behind the stairway they had taken down, off to the right. The four decided to start off by going directly forward. The hallway took a quick turn to the right and then back to the left. No sooner had they taken the second turn then they found company.

"I'm surprised it took this long," commented Ron, preparing to charge forward.

Around the corner were three monsters that looked almost identical to human skeletons that walked on their own. The main difference was that while a human skeleton obviously still has two arms these skeletons had six each. Each arm was holding a sword and the skeletons had blue helmets and blue armor on their shoulders.

"Alice, the zombie slashers will do more damage than fire to bones! Double on one with Tom!" said Suzanne.

Following Suzanne's advice, Thomas and Alice ran at the same skeleton. Alice went in first in order to distract the monster from Thomas, as he had a zombie slasher. The skeleton bore down on Alice with all six of its arms. Alice quickly had to go on the defensive. Fortunately, the skeleton did not seem to be a very skilled swordsman as she was able to block three of its blows with her shield. But with three other arms coming at her she was only able to parry one with her own sword and took two blows to her shoulder. Her armor took the worst of the blows.

Fortunately, this allowed Thomas to get behind the skeleton and as it had used all its arms against Alice, none remained to block Thomas' attack. Thomas brought his zombie slasher diagonally through the skeleton's back, destroying its spine and leaving the head and arms on the ground. The spine proved to be the monster's weak point as the arms and head were not moving on their own.

Meanwhile, Suzanne and Ron had engaged one skeleton each. As neither of them had backup they had only their swordsmanship to rely on. As Alice had just found out, the skeletons relied on their extra appendages to fight rather than any real skill. Suzanne made a move towards the middle of the skeleton. The skeleton responded by slashing at Suzanne with all six of its arms. Suzanne then made a spin move and used her shield to push aside the creature's right arms. With the creature's side exposed and its arms out of position, Suzanne completed the spin with a horizontal slash. Although her strike was not a direct hit on the creature's spine like Thomas', the magic of her blade took care of the rest. The searing light of the blade reduced the skeleton to a pile of unanimated bones on the ground.

Ron was less direct in his approach. He waited for the creature to strike after which he would mount a counterattack. The skeleton came at Ron with four of its arms while its other two began moving in a strange manner. The four were engulfed in purple light, making them more vulnerable to physical harm. Due to the spell, Ron was only able to block one blade with his shield while the other three were able to hit him. His armor made two of the blows negligible while the third slash hit him in the ribs. The strike forced Ron back a step but deciding not to let his opponent cast its spell again, Ron charged forward and gave it a vicious vertical slash. Ron's sword narrowly missed the skeleton's helmet and went inside of its shoulder armor, destroying the skeleton's spine in much the same way Thomas had destroyed his, only from the front this time.

As the four went through their usual post-fight routines, Alice had a question, "Tom, I thought you said the undead couldn't wear armor?"

"I said few zombies could wear armor," said Thomas. "And these aren't zombies anyway. They weren't created by the poison we've seen Samanao use. As far as I know, only necromancy can animate skeletons, alter the remains, or put enough power in the undead to wear armor."

"If that's the case, we might find necromancers here," said Suzanne. "And if that's the case, I wonder if they're in the employ of the imposter. He may have found out about this cave after all."

With the fighting done for the moment they found that another hallway branched off to the right from the one the four were currently in. They decided to stay their present course and continue forward. The hallway zigzagged a few times and then turned to the right until it once again split; this time with a path left and a path right. In this case, the four quickly found the two splits met and made a loop, with a different path going off the loop opposite the one they had taken into the loop. This path finally led to a large chamber with a pond inside of it. The pond was fed by a stream coming from the ceiling down the wall of the chamber.

"Who would've thought we'd see such nice scenery in this cave?" wondered Alice aloud. "The pond here must be fed from the lake above us."

"Looks like it's a popular spot with the monsters," said Thomas, pointing the other three to two figures that had emerged from the water.

The two figures looked like huge turtles at first until their heads also came out of the water. The creatures' heads looked like those of dragons. They had dark green skin and had red frills running from their head, into and out of their shell, and to the end of their tail. It was clear that they believed lunch had arrived as they immediately moved for the group.

Alice pointed her staff at the two turtle monsters and a stream of fire rose up at their feet. However, neither monster appeared fazed or hurt by the flames.

"They're resistant to magic!" warned Alice.

The four would once again have to solve their problems with their blades. Suzanne and Thomas teamed up against one of the turtle monsters. Their weapons were remarkably less effective against the turtles than they were against the skeletons. The creature's scaly skin was tough to get through and Suzanne's strike barely drew blood. When Thomas launched an attack of his own the creature parried it with its tail, knocking Thomas' blade harmlessly into the turtle's shell.

Ron met with a little more success. He ran up to engage the other enemy on his own and aimed a slash at the monster's head. The turtle jerked its head away at the last second but exposed its neck in the process. Ron's strength allowed his blade to break through the turtle's scales and deal it a serious wound. The creature fell back a step and then took a deep breath and exhaled a purple, sweet-smelling cloud. Recognizing the breath attack Suzanne, Thomas, and Alice were able to hold their breath while the cloud passed but Ron had been right next to the creature when it exhaled its breath and so caught a full breath of it. He fell to the ground asleep.

The turtle started advancing upon Ron intending to take advantage of his slumber to land a terrible blow. Alice rushed forward to cut the creature off. With the Meteorite Armband enhancing her speed and the fact that the turtle monsters were not very fast she was just able to get there in time. While Alice engaged Ron's foe Suzanne drew her enemy's attention to allow Thomas to disengage. Suzanne took a bite to her arm for the effort but was far from incapacitated by the wound. Thomas cast a spell upon the four and several small bursts of light briefly covered each one of them. The spell had no effect on Suzanne, Thomas, or Alice but served to wake Ron up.

As Ron crawled to his feet Alice made a strike at his turtle. Having not been paying attention to Alice the creature made no effort to block or parry her attack and she landed a terrific blow right between the creature's eyes. The added weight of Alice's hand-and-a-half sword gave enough force to her attack that the turtle's face was smashed in by it. The creature gave a strangled cry and fell to the ground, no longer able to support its heavy shell as the blood from Alice's and Ron's wounds proved to be too much for it. Ron quickly ended the beast.

Meanwhile Suzanne continued to duel against her foe. The turtle's tough skin saved it again as Suzanne faked a strike to its face and then pulled off another spin move to strike at its neck. The move gave Suzanne a good shot at its neck but kept her from setting her feet for the strike so there was less force behind it. The wound was not fatal but did hurt the turtle enough to throw off its next attack. Suzanne easily blocked its bite attempt with her shield. By this point, the other three had dealt with the creature's companion and came over to help Suzanne. It stood no chance against the four of them.

"Damn, these things had some impressive defenses," noted Ron after the fight was over.

"Magic didn't appear effective and their tough skin and shell made it a pain to hit them," concurred Alice, elaborating on Ron's observation.

"At least they were slow," said Suzanne.

"We should probably get moving," said Alice. "I would imagine those turtle monsters love this pond here. More of them may be here in a matter of time."

The four continued their exploration of the cave. The chamber with the pond had two exits other than the one the group had taken in: one straight across and one around the pond and to the right. The four chose the one straight across. This path took them to yet another chamber with exits straight ahead and to the right. The group had noticed a pattern by this point but continued to explore as usual to make sure not to miss anything. The whole first floor of the cave was arranged as a large loop. In several places the loop branched off towards the middle. In the middle of the loop was a staircase leading down.

The staircase took them to a huge chamber, the largest of the cave so far. The first thing the four noticed was a treasure chest not far from the staircase. Weary of a trap but not wanting to waste unnecessary time the group decided to check the chest out. Alice used her magic to verify that it was not a trap and they opened the chest to find some gold pieces.

Not far from this treasure chest was another chest. And not far from that chest was yet another. The group quickly found a trail of treasure chests leading the group into and through a hallway which brought them to a small chamber. Alice checked each chest along the way and not one of them was trapped. The group found some more gold, a medical herb, an acorn of life, and a strength seed. Suzanne decided to put up with the pain of eating the acorns this time while Alice took the seed. The chamber the group was led to had four more treasure chests inside it.

"Looks like a treasure chamber," observed Ron. "You think the Mirror is here?"

"Maybe, but we're not going to start taking chances now," answered Suzanne. Alice was already using her magic on the chests. Unlike the other treasure chests, she immediately backed away from the first chest she checked and motioned for the others to avoid it. She went to work on the other chests. She gave a similar reaction to the other three.

"They're all trapped!" whispered Alice nervously. "Let's get out of here!"

The four wasted no time and quickly withdrew from the room. They made their way down the hallway that had led them to the room. Suddenly, the four were engulfed in a purple light, the same spell one of the skeletons had used earlier. Before any of them could react Suzanne was engulfed in a flurry of blades. As the spell had lowered her defenses several of the blades found their way past her armor and those that did not left dents in her armor, almost knocking the wind out of her. As Suzanne staggered backwards another figure ran up to her and hit her in the head with a staff.

Suzanne's attackers were two more of the six-armed skeletons like those the group had met earlier. They were the source of the spell and the blades. The staff came courtesy of a man wearing red and blue furs and a weird mask.

"Yes! Kill them, my children!" yelled the man.

Alice was the first to react to the attack. Seeing the hits Suzanne had taken she began chanting a strong healing spell. The spell did not erase all of Suzanne's wounds but certainly made them look much better. Suzanne focused on trying to defend against the next flurry of blades that came from the skeletons. She did an admirable job but was only able to block five of the twelve blades that came flying at her, causing new wounds and reopening some of the ones Alice had just healed. The man contributed a smack to Suzanne's ribs with his staff.

Out of the corner of her eye, Suzanne saw Thomas hesitate on his charge. Knowing he was about to cast a spell, Suzanne yelled out, "I'm fine for now Tom! We need to thin out their numbers!"

Once again, the skeletons' lack of skill and awareness was of great aid to the group. Ron met no resistance as he made a great jump attack on one of the skeletons, obliterating it with the combined might of his attack and his blade's magic. Thomas' hesitation allowed the other skeleton to recover and bring some of its blades against him. Thomas managed to dodge all but one of them but he was unable to destroy the creature with his attack. Instead, he only managed to take off the skeleton's legs.

Alice saw the man back away from the melee and realized he was either going to try and escape or cast a spell. Alice cast a spell of her own to try and stop him. Since she did not know if the man meant to cast a spell or escape she decided not to seal the man's magic. Instead, she sent a fireball at the man. The fireball exploded on impact, inflicting serious wounds on the man. However, he was not put down yet. He cast a spell and a bright beam of light, seemingly from the ceiling, and shined down on the remains of the destroyed skeleton. Most of the pieces of the skeleton levitated in the air and reformed most of the skeleton.

With one skeleton now focusing on Thomas and the other having just reformed Suzanne was finally able to mount an offensive. Before the newly-reformed skeleton could act gave it a vicious upward slash, reducing it to even finer pieces than it had been in before the man's spell. Thomas finished off his skeleton while Ron ran at the man. The man tried to backpedal and get another spell off but Ron proved to be too quick and ran him through with his sword.

"I think we found one of our necromancers," said Ron as he removed his blade.

"I wonder if they were the ones to leave the trail of treasure chests, hoping we would get attacked by chest monsters in that chamber," mused Suzanne as Thomas healed her wounds.

"It's possible," answered Alice. "That guy had some powerful magic. He was able to reanimate that skeleton in the middle of battle. That takes some serious skill."

"It also means that the imposter probably knows about this cave now," said Thomas. "We've seen how well-hidden the cave is. I doubt that man could have just stumbled upon it."

"We'll have to hurry then," said Suzanne.

The four quickly crossed the large chamber and found a hallway on the other end. A short ways down the hallway split to the left and the right. To the left was another trail of treasure chests leading the group to another small chamber. The chests on the path were once again deemed safe and held a small amount of gold, a medical herb, and a seed Thomas said could boost a person's resilience to illness and the spells that inflict them. However, just like the other small chamber, this path led to a room with two chests that Alice said were both actually monsters.

The group prepared for another ambush as they left the chamber but this time they met no resistance as they withdrew from it. They went down the other hallway and after a small walk another hallway branched off of the one the four were currently on. This hallway had a single treasure chest leading to another chamber with two more chests in it. In this case, the lead-in chest was identified as a trap and one of the chests in the chamber was deemed safe. Inside that chest was a beautiful stone with a set inside it.

"What is this?" asked Suzanne, holding the stone up.

Thomas looked shocked when he saw what Suzanne had taken out of the chest. He went over to her and began examining the object as the other three gave him confused looks. "This is called a Stone of Life," he answered finally. "It works as a charm against spells that inflict death without wounds, such as those used by mimics. It is said the Stone 'dies in your place.' If you have a Stone of Life in your possession when such a spell is cast on you it will break into a million pieces but you will be unaffected. It's an incredibly powerful item."

"Alright, Tom, you take the Stone," said Suzanne, handing the Stone to him.

"Me? No, I couldn't take such a powerful charm and rob one of you of its protection," protested Thomas.

"But you are the most skilled at healing among us. If one of us is hit with such a spell you could possibly save us before we die," explained Suzanne. "But if you are taken out than none of us can help you."

"I don't know if that's true," said Thomas.

"Stop being Mr. Self-Doubt," said Alice with an exasperated sigh. "Of course it's true! Now you heard Susie, take the Stone before we knock you out with it and put it in your pack anyway!"

Normally such a remark would earn one of Thomas' scowls but this time he gave a small grin and took the Stone. Without further argument, the four continued their exploration. They returned to the hallway they had been exploring and soon arrived at its end: a small chamber with a descending staircase.

On the next floor the group was greeted with another small pond. This pond actually had a stream running to a larger body of water; this one could almost be considered a lake. In the middle of the lake was a small body of land upon which were a couple of pillars and a treasure chest between them. Unfortunately, there was much more than water between the four and the chest.

"That's a lot of monsters," said Ron. The lake was a breeding ground for the turtle monsters the group had fought above. Not a single place on the lake was stagnant due to their splashing and thrashing.

"Why aren't they coming at us?" wondered Alice.

"They appear much more agile in the water than they did on land when we fought them," noted Suzanne. "The water is their home; they'll tear us apart if we try to enter but we can put up a much better fight if they come to us. And judging by the decoration on that little island I would be willing to be that must be where the Mirror is."

"That's just great," grumbled Thomas. "We have to go through a legion of monsters to cross the water. There's no way we'll make it,"

"Maybe not," said Ron, looking up at the ceiling. "Look." The other three looked where Ron indicated and saw there was a hole in the ceiling.

"I'm thinking we missed something upstairs," said Ron. "If we can find the top side of that hole up there, we could just drop down to the island. We get what's in the chest and get out before the monsters decide to swarm us."

"Good eyes, Ron!" said Alice. "That should work perfectly!"

"Unless it's another trap," said Thomas. "Decorate a piece of land, put an empty chest on it and fill the lake with monsters. Put a hole in the ceiling so anybody who sees it thinks they're clever in getting to the island. Then the monsters overwhelm them."

"Tom has a good point," agreed Suzanne. "Before we go looking for a way to that island let's finish exploring the rest of the cave. If we don't find the Mirror then we'll have no other choice but to find that hole."

The chamber with the lake had three other exits on it. Through those exits the four ran into some more skeletons but without the element of surprise on their side and with the group's zombie slashers they were of little consequence. All three exits led to a hallway that connected to the other exits. The four returned to the lake chamber and as they continued to search that room, keeping an eye on the hungry-looking turtle monsters as they did so, they found one other chest they had almost missed while focusing on the island. Inside that chest was another peculiar item.

"Is that… a giant cat suit?" asked Ron, bewildered.

"Looks like it," said Suzanne. "Probably another red herring like the rest of the chests here."

"Actually, this suit has some interesting magic in it," said Alice as she began to examine the suit. "I've read about these. They're called animal suits. Creative name, isn't it? Anyway, if you put on the suit it'll actually transform you into the animal the suit looks like. You'll retain your regular mind and will be able to take it off whenever you wish."

"Transformation magic seems to be a specialty around these parts," said Suzanne. "Well anything that can serve as a disguise could be of use. Let's take it with us."

The four returned to the floor above and redid their search. They returned to the large chamber on that floor and found that there was a small hallway in the southeast corner they had overlooked before. Having seen the trail of chests on arriving in that chamber and the obvious exit on the southwest corner they had forgotten to look in the southeast corner. A small ways in and they found the hole Ron had seen from below.

Alice had more than enough magic left to slow the group's fall but they wanted to give themselves as many escape routes as they could and so they still lowered four ropes down. Unfortunately, lowering the ropes gained the attention of the monsters below. Several of them eyed the ropes suspiciously. Nevertheless, the four jumped down the hole, with Alice's magic slowing their descent.

As soon as their feet hit the ground the monsters were on the move. Alice quickly ran to the treasure chest and checked it out. Finding that it was safe, except for its environment, she opened it and took out a beautiful mirror. There was no time to admire it, the enemy was upon them. There also was no time to climb up the ropes the group had left. It looked as though the entire lake was emptying itself to attack them. Legions of turtle monsters were coming at the group.

"Guys, over here! We have a way out!" called Thomas. He was looking down at the ground. The other three rushed over to him to look at what he found. There was another hole in the ground. Seeing no other way to escape in time Alice quickly cast her spell again and the four jumped into the hole just before the first wave of monsters reached them. They landed safely on the floor below them.

"Alice, begin casting the teleportation spell! We'll keep them off you!" yelled Suzanne.

Some of the turtle monsters began dropping through the hole. Once again, the monsters' lack of athleticism on land worked to the group's advantage. Two of the turtle monsters landed on their shells. This kept the fall from hurting them but left them vulnerable. Suzanne and Ron were easily able to behead them. Another turtle landed on two of its four feet. The impact caused it noticeable pain and it was unable to stand up on those two legs. Thomas further disabled it by slashing its other two legs and the creature was practically defenseless after that.

A few more turtles came down the hole after the group but proved no more able to make a graceful landing than their brethren. Suzanne, Ron, and Thomas dispatched them with ease. After that, the turtles looking through the hole from above saw the fate that awaited them and so decided to back off. With no more immediate threats Alice was able to finish her spell and teleport the group out of the cave.

"There they are! Get them!"

Another ambush awaited the group after their escape from the cave. There were four Samanaon soldiers ready and waiting for them. Along with the soldiers were four floating slimes with tentacles. They looked like men o' war except they were red. What made it worse is that they had teleported into the middle of the poisonous swamp; the four could feel the burning liquid on their legs. The floating slimes were obviously unaffected by this but Suzanne realized that the soldiers were not. Instead of retreating back into the cave to get away from the poisonous swamp she decided on a different approach.

"Alice! Use your levitation spell on us! Then you and Tom focus on the slimes!" ordered Suzanne.

Alice did as she was told and the four were soon floating just above the surface of the harmful terrain, now immune to its effects. Thomas cast a spell of his own and a large cloud of purple smoke emerged underneath the flying slimes. From the purple smoke emerged additional smoke-shaped clouds that engulfed the four slimes. The purple smoke quickly dissipated and when it did three of the slimes were lying on the ground. The slime that was still floating did not appear to have any wounds but seemed shaken by the spell.

This left Suzanne and Ron to take on the four soldiers by themselves. With Alice's spell keeping them out of the poisonous swamp the terrain was now a huge advantage to the two. Not only were they no longer being harmed by the swamp but it also was not hampering their movement. The four soldiers had difficulty moving which is why Suzanne and Ron were able to keep them away from Thomas and Alice.

Remembering that the soldiers had some magic skill of their own Suzanne decided to press the offensive. She took one of the soldier's strikes, her armor taking most of the pain for her, and struck with all her might. The blow went through the man's armor and into his shoulder causing him to drop his shield and howl in pain. The other man tried to strike Suzanne but the swamp kept him from setting his feet properly and so Suzanne was able to get her shield up in time to block the blow.

Ron also decided to take an aggressive approach. Ron faked a charge right at the man, causing him to focus on blocking Ron while his partner readied a vicious attack of his own. Then Ron performed a daring stunt in which he jumped, kicked off the first soldier's shield in order to change to direction of his flight, and delivered a punishing slash to the other soldier's head. Like Suzanne's attack, Ron managed to break through the man's helmet and into his skull, causing him to crumple on the spot. The only penalty for Ron's move was that he was left off balance on his landing allowing the unwounded soldier to shield bash him. Ron fell over and if it were not for Alice's spell would have caught a mouthful of poisonous swamp.

The surviving slime came to its senses and cast a spell of its own. A large burst of bright light surrounded the soldier Suzanne had wounded while small streams of green light swirled around him. The wound Suzanne had inflicted erased itself right before the group's eyes and were it not for the damage to his armor there would have been no sign he had ever been wounded.

Continuing to sling the magic, Alice completed another spell. A huge explosion engulfed the battle, dealing severe wounds to the slime and one of the three surviving soldiers while the four and the other two soldiers were left unharmed; the spell had been designed to ignore the four but the soldier's magic armor had saved them as well. The slime fell to the ground dead. Ron quickly ran at the wounded soldier. The man was still staggering from Alice's spell which allowed Ron to land a terrific blow to his head. The man fell to the ground dead.

Thomas took out his sword and ran at one of the soldiers Suzanne had been fighting. He opened with a shield bash and managed to put the man on his back. The man yelled in pain as the poisonous swamp engulfed him and that provided the distraction Thomas needed. He finished the soldier quickly. Next to Thomas, Suzanne had just finished destroying her foe's sword arm again. Soon after that, Suzanne destroyed her foe.

The four took little time to relax after their fight was over. "They knew we were here," said Suzanne. "We need to return to the king, quickly."

Samanao Castle was on full alert, even more so than usual. For the past few years the soldiers had always been told to be alert at all times for suspicious activity. If they saw a person who even looked like he was thinking angry thoughts against the king they were told to arrest that person. Because of this, most people made sure to steer clear of the castle; it was a good way to get arrested and getting arrested was a good way to get executed.

But the Castle seemed to be on higher alert than usual this night. There were more guards on duty at all visible stations. These days, it was very dangerous to spread any rumors about the castle or the king but there were so many rumors floating about that the people could not help themselves. The most recent gossip said that a small collection of people had managed to escape the castle recently, an uncommon event as most prisoners were executed long before they could even think of an escape plan. Increased activity around the castle town, including search parties, seemed to confirm that suspicion. The people believed the soldiers were looking for the escapees.

Suddenly, a yell broke the air, "Fire! Fire in the throne room!"

Having been ordered to investigate any disturbance en masse, a large group of soldiers left their posts to investigate the throne room. The paintings in the room had been set ablaze.

"Heads will roll if His Majesty's paintings aren't saved!" yelled one of the soldiers, likely a commander. "What are you waiting for? Fetch water! And search for the villain who did this!"

The calm, collected demeanor of the soldiers had been broken. The king had not trained his men very well. Chaos erupted among the soldiers. Water was spilt and the search was unorganized. Areas meant to be guarded at all times were left unwatched. All this happened in a desperate bid to save the paintings and find the culprit.

Nobody paid any attention to the cat that left the throne room soon after the fire had been started.

The chaos of the burning paintings allowed the four, the king-like man, and Matthew to sneak onto the roof of the castle with two captives in tow. One captive was the captain of the castle guard, taken during the chaos. The king-like man had identified the captain as an honorable man who must have been deceived by the imposter's enchanting women. The other captive was a man on the higher levels of the rebellion. The large group managed to sneak into quarters meant for the king.

The captives were sat down in front of the king's bed, upon which lied the man who had been sitting on the throne every day for the past few years. The kingly man with the tattered robes stood next to the bed. Matthew stood by the captives. Suzanne put on the animal suit the four had found in the cave, which turned her into a cat. Ron, Thomas, and Alice stood next to her.

It was Ron who spoke, making sure to whisper to avoid disturbing the man laying upon the bed or alerting any of the guards still scrambling downstairs, "We apologize for the rough treatment we have given you gentlemen, but we needed witnesses for what is about to happen. For I declare that this man lying upon the bed, who has been ruling this nation for the last few years, is really an imposter. The man standing next to the bed in the tattered robes is the true king, King Crayton the Fourth."

The general struggled against his bonds and tried to yell through the gag that had been placed in his mouth. He was clearly not convinced. The rebel looked with suspicion at Ron.

Ron drew forth the Mirror the four had found in the cave. They had already tested the Mirror with the animal suit. The mirror had shown the image of Suzanne even while she wore the suit and appeared to be a cat. Now Ron demonstrated for the two captive witnesses.

"You have seen my friend transform before your very eyes so you know her true form," declared Ron. "But in this mirror you see not the cat she transformed into but her true form. Now you must know that this is the Mirror of Ra."

"We apologize for disrespecting your customs, but we had no other choice. We had to use the Mirror to put the true king back on the throne," explained Ron. "Now, without further ado, let us see the true forms of these two men."

Ron held the mirror so that all assembled could see the reflections of the two kingly men inside it. The man in the tattered robes appeared unchanged in the Mirror. The man sleeping upon the bed looked like a huge, grotesque, humanoid monster with green skin. The two witnesses could be heard gasping, even through their gags, where they sat. Their eyes showed a look of utter disbelief.

Then a shrill voice pierced the air, "Wake up you idiot! They've revealed your true form!"

The voice came from the diminutive form of Alex, the man who had betrayed the four when they had first came to the castle town. Upon seeing him Alice immediately drew her sword and made to attack Alex. Alex ran away squealing.

"Assassins!" yelled Alex. "They're trying to assassinate the king!"

Meanwhile, the imposter had woken up and crawled out of bed. His eyes no longer had pupils and now appeared as nothing more than solid yellow.

"You've seen my true form!" said the imposter. Before the eyes of all assembled, he suddenly ballooned up to ten times his size. His skin had turned green and somehow a giant club had appeared in the monster's hand.

"None of you can be allowed to live! I've waited so long to tear apart humans again!" cackled the beast.

"King Crayton! Matthew!" called Suzanne. "Get our two guests out of here! Leave this to us!"

King Crayton and Matthew pulled out a couple knives and quickly cut the bonds on the two captives. The troll moved towards them, trying to kill the king before he could escape but was soon met with Alice's blade sinking into its leg. The wound Alice left was little more than a scratch to the huge monster but the troll yelped in pain anyway. The troll could not believe this tiny thing would dare hurt it. It was not about to let this miserable little human go unpunished.

In her attempt to distract the troll from King Crayton, Matthew, and the captives Alice had put all her strength into driving her blade into the troll's flesh. This left her unable to dodge the troll's attack. The troll swung its club in a great arc down at Alice. Alice was only able to back up a step before it hit her, avoiding the middle of the club. But being hit by the side of such a giant weapon still caused incredible damage. The club crushed Alice's armor and sent her flying into one of the stone walls. Her bloodied and broken body felt limply to the ground.

"We'll keep the troll busy, Tom! Save Alice!" yelled Suzanne as she and Ron rushed the troll. Thomas wanted to stop them, having seen what the creature had done to Alice when she attacked it. But Thomas trusted Suzanne's judgment and ran over to where Alice had fallen.

Ron plunged his blade into the same spot Alice had struck. The wound Alice had caused had almost closed up completely; the troll had regenerative abilities. The troll cackled as it prepared to smash Ron in a similar manner. Its club arm was then hit by a bolt of lightning, conjured up by Suzanne. The troll halted its attack and howled in pain.

Thomas cast a spell on Alice as she was fading away fast. A beam of light came into the room down towards Alice. However, the beam of light stopped short of Alice's body and then returned into the ceiling in which it came with no effect on her.

"Damn it!" swore Thomas. The spell he had attempted to cast was a very powerful, and very complicated, healing spell. He had made a mistake in its casting which had caused it to fail.

The troll finally managed to lay its club upon Ron. However, Suzanne's spell had allowed Ron to adopt a defensive position in preparation for the attack. He tried to jump backwards but the club was so large that it was still able to hit him. Ron was sent sprawling to the ground but was quickly able to get back up. The wound caused by Alice and Ron was once again almost gone and Ron knew he could not keep hitting the same spot. He ran back up to the creature and made a jumping slash to its knee. The wound still should not have been too serious but the troll once again demonstrated its intolerance of pain by staggering. This allowed Suzanne to make a jumping slash to the back of the same knee, making the troll stagger further.

Thomas calmed himself down and attempted his spell again. Once again, a beam of light came down from the ceiling towards Alice. Once again, the spell failed to reach Alice and disappeared without restoring her. Thomas swore a more vicious oath this time. Alice did not have much time left.

Suzanne and Ron were now meeting with more success. Although the troll's wounds were still closing themselves the troll still felt enough pain in its knee to limp. This caused its next attack to come slower and with less force. Ron was almost able to get out of the club's way and the attack, though still painful, was only able to spin him around this time rather than send him to the ground. He and Suzanne renewed their efforts on the creature's legs, this time focusing on the other leg. If they could damage its legs enough they might be able to get it to fall down, reducing its advantage immensely.

For the third time, Thomas cast his healing spell upon Alice. For the third time, a beam of light came down from the ceiling towards Alice. For the first time, the beam managed to reach all the way to the ground and Alice's broken body was mended considerably. Though she still did not look well, her blood no longer flowed upon the ground and she was able to shakily get back to her feet.

"Third time's the charm," muttered Thomas with a smirk.

Noticing that Alice was back on her feet, Suzanne called out to her, "Alice! Ron and I need your magic to hurt this thing!"

Unable to watch for Alice's response, Suzanne did not see the blank stare that Alice gave her. Her mind was still catching up to the action. While Suzanne and Ron still tried to take out the troll's knees, and with both being sent into a nearby wall by a vicious club attack, Thomas cast another healing spell upon Alice. She had now gone from near death to almost perfect health in about fifteen seconds.

Alice was then able to return to her senses. She cast a spell upon Ron and he was engulfed in crimson light. His strength was no enhanced and his next strike to the troll's knee cut deep into its thick skin, which was now little deterrent to Ron's blade. The creature fell over, though it managed to swipe Ron with its arm as it fell. They were both in bad shape now.

However, Ron had healers on his side. Thomas cast a healing spell upon Ron, allowing him to get back onto his feet and charge back to the troll. While that happened, Alice finished another spell and enhanced Suzanne's strength. And with the troll now on the ground, Suzanne and Ron were at an advantage now. Ron cut into the monster's midsection, looking for its heart, while Suzanne jumped on top of the troll's side and cut into its arm. It had tried to swat at Suzanne but her blade rendered its arm useless. The arm fell down limply.

Finally, Suzanne and Ron worked their way to the troll's head. The troll was unable to get the two off of it, allowing them to slice and dice into the creature's skull, soon rendering the troll limp and lifeless. As they had with the Orochi, the two made sure to inflict a good amount of overkill on the beast to be certain that it was dead and ensure that the troll could not heal itself back into fighting shape. The troll's body fell disgustingly unto its back, the king's bedroom now almost covered in a pool of green blood.

The imposter was dead. When the creature rolled over, the four noticed a peculiar staff sitting just underneath the troll's arm.

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