The Hero of Legend

Chapter 25: Loved Ones

The four had seen and participated in the toppling of several regimes throughout the duration of their quest but the overthrowing of the troll pretending to be King Crayton would take more than the troll's defeat. The two witnesses spread the tale of the battle against the fake King Crayton throughout the kingdom and the true King Crayton publicly displayed himself and the body of the troll in the Mirror of Ra several times. But some refused to believe these displays. This led to the ironic situation of many of the castle soldiers and many of the rebellion teaming up to form a new rebellion; though the new rebellion considered themselves the true servants of Samanao and considered the true King Crayton an usurper.

Fortunately, the majority of the people respected the Mirror of Ra enough to believe in the true king. King Crayton was able to sit upon his throne for the first time in years. The group of people who thought he had stolen the throne was small compared to those that now stood by him. The new rebellion was driven from the capital into the countryside. The king had intended to leave them alone but the rebels had turned to guerilla warfare against the forces of Samanao. It was with a heavy heart that the king ordered his men to pursue the rebels.

"All this because of my mistakes," King Crayton lamented. "But now I must fix my mistakes."

"Is there anything we can do to help?" Suzanne asked.

"You can continue your quest," the king answered. "As far as Samanao is concerned that is the best thing you can do for us. As for my dissenters, that is a problem that will take some time to solve and that we, as a people, will have to solve for ourselves. And now I have found out first hand how dangerous the Archfiend is, even without using an army of monsters."

"On that note, I have prepared a collection of messages to be given to the rulers of Romaly, Isis, Eginbear, and Portoga. It will let them know about most of our situation. I am afraid I could not mention you in the messages for Eginbear and Portoga. Politically, I did not think it would be wise; in fact, I think it could hurt our cause."

"Why's that?" asked Ron.

"No doubt the citizens of Samanao aren't the only ones that will find this tale hard to swallow," Suzanne guessed. "King Saldor of Portoga will be especially suspicious if he hears of our involvement. When we met him, he suspected us of being agents of the empire and if he hears of our part in this affair he may think the empire has set up a puppet ruler in Samanao. His mistrust in the empire is that great."

"You are correct," said the king. "I remember King Saldor. If he thinks that I am a puppet put here by the empire he will not take it lightly. He would likely consider it an aggressive act; the Romalian Empire building up their power before they invade Portoga. The two nations have had a strained relationship ever since the Second Great War. And with your talk of uniting the nations, as Desmond did, he will believe that his greatest nightmare is coming true again. Samanao will have enough to do to recover from our recent turmoil; we would not be able to defend ourselves if King Saldor thinks it necessary to get rid of the empire's puppet government."

"That'd be terrible!" exclaimed Alice. "You don't think he'd really invade Samanao do you?"

"Do not be so quick to judge King Saldor," said His Majesty. "He only wishes to protect his land. The number of parallels between recent events and the Second Great War would be understandably frightening for him."

"Nevertheless, your names and deeds are proudly recorded in the messages for the empire and Isis," continued King Crayton, changing the subject. "In addition, I will pledge the support of Samanao to the cause of fighting the Archfiend. When the time comes, Samanao will stand together with Romaly and Isis. Though you must understand, we are capable of giving little support at the moment. I fear the imposter has done enough damage."

"Don't worry, Your Majesty," came a voice from the back of the throne room. "We'll restore Samanao to its former glory in no time."

Matthew had just walked into the throne room. For the first time since the four had met him, Matthew was no longer wearing his light armor but a noble looking robe. King Crayton had appointed Matthew to be an advisor. Matthew would prove invaluable in dealing with the former members of the rebellion. Besides that, Matthew had proven he was a man the king could trust and with his missing arm this would allow him to serve his country without fighting. Lastly, the king still had not fully recovered from all the torment he had suffered while imprisoned by the troll and Matthew was familiar with the episodes the king could go into.

Nevertheless, the role would take some getting used to. Even walking in the bulky robe appeared to give Matthew some discomfort. He also was getting used to only having one arm; he walked into the room carrying two swords and scabbards.

"I came to see the lot of you off," said Matthew. Ron quickly relieved him of his burden, looking at Matthew to see where he wanted the swords. "They're for you: a gift for all you've done. They're called dragon killers. They're very powerful and, as you would guess, effective against dragons. History tells us the mountains around our nation were once a home to the beasts. The knowledge of how to make these weapons has been passed down throughout Samanaon history."

"Thank you," said Suzanne. "We will use them well."

"That reminds me, I have a gift for you as well," said the king. He brought forward the strange staff that had been found on the troll's body after it had been defeated.

"I have had the scholars look at it and they agree this is called the Staff of Change," explained King Crayton. "It is what that demon used to assume my form so perfectly. I want you four to take care of it. Make sure it never falls into the wrong hands ever again."

"You have our word that will never happen," said Suzanne, accepting the gift.

"I would ask a favor of you, before you go," said Matthew. "If you find Simon, dead or alive, could you get word to me immediately? Only if it's not an inconvenience, of course."

"It would be no problem," replied Suzanne. "Now that the seal on Samanao is gone we'll be able to teleport to and from here at will. If I may ask, why are you interested in Simon's fate?"

"He is my father," answered Matthew.

Having no leads on the remaining two orbs and wanting to find Simon for Matthew the group decided to look for the Shrine Jail, where Simon was sent by the imposter. King Crayton and Matthew gave the group maps which pinpointed the Shrine Jail's exact location in the Narls Sea. The Mad Hound was teleported near Noaniels. From there, it was a four day trip to get to the Naxly Sea, the body of water just east of the Narls which was connected by a river.

On the third day of the trip they came to the river that led from the open ocean through land, forming part of the border between the Zilcof and Dalmath continents. This portion of the Dalmath continent was literally covered by a humongous forest called the Forest of the World Tree. The forest was named for the fact it was rumored to house the World Tree; a tree whose leaves were said to have wondrous healing abilities. The forest was a mysterious place and filled with monsters so it had resisted habitation by humans.

Which made it all the more curious when the crew of the Mad Hound spotted a house not far inland. The house was just outside of the forest. Suzanne wondered who would be living in a place like this and so she and the other three decided to take a quick detour and visit the house.

Once the four came near the house they found that it was of remarkable construction. It was made out of the finest of wood and shaped in such a way that it seemed to sprout forth from the ground itself. Looking at the house and comparing it to the nearby forest it was clear that wood used had come from the forest. However, looking at the house and its natural looking shapes gave the observer the impression that no trees had been cut down to build it.

Out of the house came a man of very short stature. The four quickly realized he was a dwarf. The dwarf was wearing heavy armor and was carrying a hammer even bigger than he was.

"Be gone with you!" shouted the dwarf in a very deep voice. "Don't think I can't reach your faces with this hammer here!"

Suzanne held up her hands. "We mean you no harm, sir. We were just wondering who was living so close to the Forest of the World Tree."

The dwarf opened his mouth to yell again but then promptly shut it. It was tough to see due to the dwarf's full facial hair covering his face but he appeared shocked at what Suzanne said. The four looked at the dwarf with confusion.

"That voice…" muttered the dwarf, barely audible. "What is your name?"

As Suzanne came near the dwarf it was now her that showed surprise on her face. She quickly composed herself and answered, "I am Suzanne of Aliahan, daughter of Ortega. And you are Gerule, the man who brought us news of his fate."

"My goodness, Suzanne, what brings you out here?" asked Gerule. "Why are you and your friends armed and armored like this?"

"We have taken up the journey where my father left off," answered Suzanne.

"No!" said Gerule, horrified. "You cannot go on our journey. Ortega's spirit would never rest, knowing his little girl is putting herself in danger."

"I have to disagree, Gerule," replied Suzanne. "We have met with a lot of progress in our quest. I believe my father would be proud."

"No!" yelled Gerule again. "You have no idea what you're getting into! You have no idea the horrors that are out there!"

"With all due respect, we do," returned Suzanne calmly. "We have fought terrible monsters and witnessed terrible things. But we have also seen the good out there. And we have begun to get the different nations to cooperate. The Romalian Empire and Isis have formed an alliance and are even now preparing to deal with the Archfiend. And just recently, Samanao has come out of isolation and has pledged their support to the cause."

Gerule once again wore the face of shock. "Samanao has come out of isolation? How in the world did you manage that?"

"It's a long story," said Suzanne. "Why don't we go inside and take a moment to catch up?"

"Incredible," commented Gerule, when the four had finished their story. "Indeed, you have met with much more success than we ever did. To think that you liberated Samanao and got them to join the alliance…"

But then Gerule became stern once again. "But you must stop this now. There are still more terrible things out there. You must not continue, as we did. You would inevitably be taken into the Necrogond. You would meet the same fate as your father and our comrades." The thought of his lost friends clearly gave Gerule a lot of grief.

"What happened up there?" asked Suzanne softly. "Up in the Necrogond. I never heard the whole story."

"I wouldn't want to give you pain. Know only that your father fought bravely to the last," answered Gerule.

"Please, Gerule. I can handle it," said Suzanne.

Gerule gave a large sigh. "Very well. We went into the Necrogond to perform reconnaissance on the Archfiend and his forces. Maybe we could even catch a glimpse of the bastard. The going was tough from the get go. The monsters would've been bad enough but just getting through the mountains was an impossible challenge."

"One day, we were beset upon by a host of monsters. The battle was fierce and we never found good ground to stand on. It was all we could do to keep from falling down. We used this to our advantage too, pushing monsters down the mountain. But many of our foes could fly. It felt like hours."

"Eventually we caught a break, but it didn't last long. Before we could find shelter we were attacked by a large green dragon and some other monsters. Irineas, one of our comrades and an elven wizard, identified the dragon as Xlysinil, the Dark Sky Guardian said to have served the Master Archfiend in the First Great War."

"Wait, that's the name from the elves' song from Liamland!" exclaimed Alice. "The one they said killed the god-bird!"

"It would not surprise me," said Gerule. "He was a terrible beast. With him fighting us, we were now at a serious disadvantage. And he was a skilled flier; we could not hope to escape. Ortega was sent down the mountain first; one of Xlysinil's minions cast a spell and when Ortega tried to avoid it he lost his footing. Then Xlysinil let out a burst of flame that sent me down the mountainside. I was separated from Ortega, Sarina, and Irineas."

"I lost consciousness for a time," continued Gerule. "I don't know how long I was out. I was amazed to even wake up. There were no monsters around me. I hurried up the mountain after my friends."

"I came across Sarina and Irineas first," said Gerule. His voice was barely audible now and his face had lost all its color. "They were already dead. What was worst, there were monsters all around them. The demons were feasting on them right there."

Now Gerule was filled with such rage, the four were almost afraid he would snap and attack them. "I ended the foul beasts right there to stop their desecration of my friends' bodies. It was then I heard a commotion further up the mountain. I could see Ortega fighting Xlysinil all by himself."

Gerule's anger was now replaced with admiration. "I always knew he was a skilled fighter, a master with both the sword and with magic. But I had never seen him like this. To think that he fought and defeated that dragon in single combat is incredible."

Then Gerule turned solemn again. "I rushed up the mountain to help him but I was too late. When I saw him deal the killing blow to Xlysinil, I slowed my pace. Thinking the threat done with, my adrenaline stopped fueling me and I felt the ache of my wounds and my exhaustion catch up with me. It appeared the same happened to Ortega. We both thought the creature to no longer be a threat but with its last breath it threw its body against Ortega, sending them both into the mouth of the volcano."

"My energy returned to me and I rushed after Ortega. The heat was so incredible, it was all I could do just to look into the volcano. I saw nothing but lava and a few glimpses of Xlysinil's body, set aflame. At least the beast was destroyed too."

There was silence for a long time. Finally, Suzanne spoke, "Thank you Gerule. I know that must have been hard for you. But now I know the true significance of my father's last moments. He destroyed the terrible Xlysinil who slew the god-bird. He died a true hero."

"And I will continue his journey," continued Suzanne. "I realize we will face even greater dangers and horrors than we have seen yet. But my father went on this journey because he knew we could not just stand by. He believed in making an effort for the greater good and as his daughter, I too believe in that. I will continue his journey."

"Come with us," said Suzanne. "We could use your help. And you could put my father's spirit at ease; he would know that his daughter is being watched over by a friend."

"I almost wish I could," replied Gerule. "But I can't. The fight wouldn't be in me anyhow. I have no hope left, child. A man with no hope would only be a deterrent to your cause. And I made a promise to Irineas and Sarina. Irineas was the last in a line of elves that had sworn to protect this forest. Sarina had happened upon him by chance and the two had fallen in love. I promised them that if something happened to them I would protect this forest in their place. This is their house."

Gerule then went over to a drawer and pulled out a leaf. Never had the four thought they would see a single leaf that looked so majestic, so incredible. The leaf literally glowed with an incredible power.

"A leaf of the World Tree," gasped Thomas in awe. "The greatest of healing plants. This leaf has the power to bring a person back from the very brink of death."

"You're correct, Thomas," said Gerule. "This is all I can do for you now. Take it, and be safe."

The four left Gerule and continued towards the Shrine Jail. The next two days saw sunny skies as the Mad Hound worked its way into and then through the Laxly Sea.

"We're finally going to meet Simon!" exclaimed Alice excitedly. "I hope Mathias was right and that Simon has the Sword of Gaia. I would love to see that thing in action!"

"Don't be too hasty," cautioned Thomas. "Do you remember that tale we heard from the bard, Sonny? The Shrine Jail is right in the middle of the Narls. And if his tale is correct, there's no way we'll even get into the Narls."

"Well of course I remember, Tom!" said Alice, undeterred. "But I have faith in Captain Marbeley and his crew. They haven't failed us yet!"

"I too have the utmost confidence in the captain and the crew but I don't think great sailing skills are going to get by a curse," protested Thomas.

The two continued to discuss the matter while Suzanne and Ron looked on.

"She's awfully cheerful today," observed Ron. "Usually when we try to argue with her she'd be yelling her head off at us by now. Remember how we argued about the existence of ice dragons again yesterday? You'd think I insulted her honor or something!"

"She's been patient with Tom in general recently," said Suzanne. "I think she's being thankful for his saving her life against the troll."

"Now that's just unfair," replied Ron. "We kept the thing away from the two of them while Tom worked his magic. We saved her just as much as he did."

"You don't think Tom deserves some credit?" asked Suzanne.

"Oh, no, no, that's not what I meant!" said Ron hastily. "There's no way I could've done what he did. He definitely saved her life. But we played our part too. I'm just saying that instead of just not yelling at Tom she should not be yelling at us too."

Suzanne could not help but laugh at Ron's comments. "Oh but that would take away from team morale. The crew was even placing bets on how long you and Alice would argue about ice dragons yesterday."

"Really?" asked Ron, brightening up. "I wish you'd have told me! I'd have loved to get in on that!"

"Speaking of morale," said Ron, now serious. "Are you alright, Susie? I know our visit with Gerule brought up a lot of memories."

"I'm fine," replied Suzanne. "Really, I am glad we ran into Gerule. Now I know what happened in my father's final moments. And even though those moments were horrible, I know he achieved victory even in death. Because of him, we will not need to worry about Xlysinil. And as the daughter of the man who slew that beast, I am proud to continue on in his name."

"And now we're searching for Simon, Matthew's father," continued Suzanne. "In many ways, Matthew has had a much tougher time than me. Both he and his father were denounced as enemies of their nation. He doesn't know if his father is dead or alive and he has a terrible wound that will hinder him his entire life. Yet he still does all he can to make a difference. We can all draw inspiration from people like him."

Suddenly a large wailing noise startled the group. The Mad Hound had entered the river between the Narls and the Naxly while they were talking. The four looked around for the source but the noise seemed to be coming from all around them. The crew of the Mad Hound had also been surprised by the noise and stopped their work to figure out what was going on.

Then a cloud blotted out the sun. All on board quickly realized this to be an ill omen as there had not been a cloud in the sky all day. Captain Marbeley was the first to recover his senses as he began giving orders to his crew to prepare the ship for whatever may come.

After a few more moments the noise was identified as a woman's voice. Nobody on board could understand what the woman was saying but she seemed to be crying out in extreme sorrow. Then the ship began being pushed backwards. Captain Marbeley ordered anchors to be dropped but almost as though the world was now working against the Mad Hound any anchor that was dropped into the ocean was somehow unsecured and would fall off the ship entirely, no longer tied down.

For many tense moments the crew and the four could do nothing but brace themselves for whatever doom the voice had in store for them. But almost as suddenly as the commotion had began it stopped. The Mad Hound found itself back in the Naxly without a scratch. The crew was confused by the sudden change and looked to Captain Marbeley for orders. The captain walked over to the four.

"I've not seen waters like these in all my years on the sea," said the captain. "Mind you, I've set sail in some rough seas. But I've never come across a storm that lasts only minutes and politely sets a ship backwards without a scratch. I take it this was that curse you were talking about?"

"It must've been," answered Suzanne. "Which would mean that woman's voice we heard was Olivia's."

Alice turned to Thomas. "I guess you were right. This time."

"So let me see if I follow this chain of events," said Ron. "We want to go to the Shrine Jail to find Simon. The Shrine Jail is in the middle of the Narls Sea. The Narls Sea is haunted by the spirit of Olivia who keeps us from getting to the Shrine Jail. Sonny told us that Olivia's love, Errol, was taken by a pirate ship that now travels the seas as a phantom ship. We believe this phantom ship is the same ship that Celia and her pirate group once happened upon and that Errol's spirit, if it is on the ship, is the key to breaking Olivia's hold on the Narls. The key to finding this phantom ship is with the thigh bone of one of its crew, which was given to the wizard Zlistan who lives in Greenlad. Zlistan will trade us the thigh bone if we give him the Staff of Change."

"Sounds about right," agreed Suzanne.

"Now, Tom," said Ron, turning to Thomas. "I know you have your own little list cooked up to address this one."

"I had thought everybody was tired of hearing my pessimistic grumblings," replied Thomas. "Especially since, as I have to admit, I've often been wrong."

"Just indulge me," said Ron.

"Very well," began Thomas. "Simon is probably dead, we are only guessing that Errol's spirit can calm Olivia's, and we're only guessing that Errol is on this phantom ship."

"Thanks, Tom," said Ron. "Now I'm not saying I don't think all of this is going to work but you guys have to admit this is one of the most zig-zaggy, complicated leads we've had on this quest."

"Oh I don't know," disagreed Alice. "Remember what we had to do for the Final Key? We heard about it in Tedanki, went to Lancel for more information and for the Invisibility Herbs to help us sneak into Eginbear, where we found the Vase of Drought. Then we found out where to use the Vase from a talking horse in the Soo village and had to search in the middle of the ocean before finally finding it."

"You have a point," conceded Ron.

The four had teleported to Eginbear which was the closest to Greenlad. Since they were in the area, they decided to pay Bill and Polce a visit and see how their town was doing. It was a three day trip from Eginbear to the new town. The path through the forest that the group had found last time had now been upgraded to a full road. At the beginning of the road there was a large house at which several guards were stationed. Some of the guards offered to escort the four through the forest but they turned down the offer.

The town had grown quite a bit since the last time the four had visited, three months ago. It seemed like an impossible transformation. The theater Bill had been overseeing the construction of was already finished with several shows and attractions advertised. A few extra shops had been added and the town now had an established business district. The town had been named Billville, likely in thanks to the man who had helped it grow so much.

There were many people out and about on this day. None of them were heading for the theater or seemed to be using their time for entertainment. All of them were either working or going off in a rush, likely to get to their place of business.

The four asked around for Bill and were met with surprising disdain in a number of places. Nevertheless, after asking a few people they were pointed to a large building, one that had not been standing on their previous visit. The building was the most decorated structure in the town, even more so than the theater. One of the townspeople identified it as the town hall, though she had said so with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.

Inside the town hall Bill sat upon a throne with a luxurious red carpet leading up to it. Though his room did not have quite the level of decoration and wealth as a king's he certainly gave off the impression that he was acting as a ruler.

"Well isn't this a pleasant surprise!" greeted Bill. "I formally welcome you to Billsville, now that our settlement actually has a name. What brings the four of you here?"

"We have business in this area of the world so we thought we'd pay you a visit," answered Suzanne. "I have to say, I'm impressed with how far this place has come along. I can't believe how much progress this town has made in the last few months alone!"

"Ah yes, we're all very proud of the achievements we've made," said a beaming Bill. "Everyone knows the value of hard work here. And I've heard a thing or two about your achievements. In the past couple days the town has been abuzz with rumors of Samanao coming back to the rest of the world, helped along by a courageous quartet of warriors. That wouldn't happen to be you four, would it?"

"We may have had a hand in it," said Ron, also beaming.

"Well I thank you for that," said Bill. "Now I can send my recruits to Samanao. This opens up a lot of different possibilities. A new variety of people could settle here. And if rumors of the terrible life in Samanao are true, we should have no trouble getting people to move from there."

"Can you only think about yourself?" asked Thomas with disgust. "These people are trying to recover from a terrible regime and all you can think about is what they can bring to your operation?"

"I'm sorry, Tom, I misspoke," answered Bill hastily. "Of course I empathize with what the Samanaons have gone through. That is why it would be so great for them to come here. I would think many of them have had enough conflict in their native land, conflict which doesn't exist here. I think many Samanaons could have a better life here."

"That does bring up something troubling I've noticed in our stroll over here," began Suzanne. "Why is everyone in such a rush around here? Everyone seems to be working at a frenzied pace and we've noticed a lot of unhappiness just walking here. To be specific, a lot of this unhappiness seems directed at you."

"Well like I said, everyone knows it takes hard work to make this place succeed," Bill explained. "But just because a person knows this doesn't always mean he or she is happy with it. I've taken it upon myself to keep the people busy; to keep the town growing. Many think that we've come far enough that we can sit down for a bit and relax but I know better. We're one of the few settlements on this side of the world and as far as most of civilization is concerned, we're out in the middle of nowhere. If we sit down for a moment then the rest of the world will quickly forget about us. And since we are so isolated that would quickly mean the end of this town. We need to continue to work hard to keep this from happening."

"With all this talk of hard work, what are you doing to help this town besides boss everyone around from your throne?" asked Thomas accusingly. "You have the town named after you and this nice luxurious room to lounge around in. Where's your hard work?"

"Tom, I'm shocked at your attitude towards me!" said Bill, hurt by Thomas' comments. "I'm doing for this town what I had done for you guys! I handle the finances, the business decisions! I'm brining money into this town and keeping it from losing all of it. I'm handling our relationships with the rest of the world, engaging in trade. And with Samanao coming out of isolation, my role will be even more important in the days to come. I may not be handling the physical labor but I promise you I am putting every effort I can into this town!"

"Tom, perhaps you should take a step outside," suggested Suzanne. Thomas put up no argument and seemed glad to remove himself from Bill's presence.

"Tom does bring up a good point," said Suzanne, turning back to Bill. "Make sure you always have the best of these people in your mind, Bill. The line between leadership and tyranny can sometimes be difficult to see."

"I appreciate your concern, Susie," thanked Bill. "And on that note, I do have some paperwork to look over. But before you leave, there's a fellow at the inn you may want to talk to. When he found out that I knew you four he seemed quite interested in talking to you. I had meant to send a message to you but I didn't know where you were and I was too busy to try and track you down. Also, please visit our shops and buy some of our quality goods before you leave."

"Alright, I'll go talk to the man at the inn," said Suzanne.

"I'll hit up the shops," declared Ron with a grin. "Anything to support this budding community."

"And I'll babysit Ron to make sure he doesn't blow all our money," said Alice with a sigh. "Though I could've sworn it was Tom's turn."

"You're babysitting me?" asked Ron with a laugh. "I'm not the one that wanted to pay a large sum for that dress in Samanao!"

"Hey, that dress had magic in it!" protested Alice. "It probably could've protected me better than my armor!"

"Only if the monsters are easily distracted by shining things," said Ron.

Suzanne went to the inn looking for the man Bill had referred her to. The innkeeper directed her to one of the rooms. Suzanne knocked on the door and was admittedly told to enter. Inside the room was a middle-aged man who looked like he had seen his share of battle; his body was covered in scars. He wore green furs and his face was much paler from the rest of his skin; as though he typically wore something over it whenever he was outdoors. Suzanne was reminded of the cannibals that the group had encountered in southern Tarasia.

"You are one of the four searching for the orbs?" asked the man, not wasting a lot of time.

"I am," confirmed Suzanne.

"I am from one of the tribes that used to take residence in southern Tarasia," said the man, confirming what Suzanne had been thinking. "As you may know, the Archfiend's forces have forced many of us from our homes. Those that remain may as well be monsters; they hunt humans for food and serve the Archfiend."

"We had the misfortune of encountering such people in our travels," replied Suzanne. "I must admit that you remind me of them."

"You refer to my manner of dress?" asked the man. "It is common for the people of our land. Or was common, as things are now. Do not compare me with those disgusting things. They are as responsible for the exile and deaths of my people as the Archfiend."

"I'm sorry," apologized Suzanne. "Why did you want to speak with us?"

"I want revenge against the Archfiend and against those vile cannibals," explained the man. "I myself have traveled far and wide and talked with many people. When I heard that a group of people was searching for the orbs I decided that I should help them. I don't know what the orbs do but I do know they are objects of incredible power."

"A year ago, I returned to my former home. There I found that my people were not the only tribe not to give in to the Archfiend," continued the man. "Rumor has it that this tribe has been tasked with protecting the silver orb. A line of guardians have been given this task. They are said to protect the orb from within a shrine that lies in the Necrogond Mountains. The people I talked to expressed their belief that the Archfiend had not found the shrine, for they say it is well hidden."

"Inside the Necrogond?" echoed Suzanne. "That's in the heart of the Archfiend's land. How would they have survived this long?"

"I can't say for sure that they have," admitted the man. "But I know the people of this tribe. They have always been attuned to the magical arts. A man I talked to gave me a piece of advice he said was vital to locating the shrine. He said it was a secret known only by his tribe and those they saw as friends. 'When the moon is full, the lake will show the way.' I don't know exactly what it means but it must be the key to finding the shrine. Not knowing this must be why the Archfiend hasn't found them yet, or so they say."

"Thank you. Do you have any idea where to begin looking for the shrine?" asked Suzanne.

"I can show you where this tribe used to live, before the monsters became too fierce for even them to stay," said the man.

Suzanne went to get a map for the man to mark. As she did so she could not help but remember the warning Gerule had given her. Though she believed that her and her companions would indeed one day have to travel into the Necrogond, where her father had met his end, it now seemed that day was fast approaching.

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