The Hero of Legend

Chapter 29: War Begins

Emperor Vilisik of the Romalian Empire sat impatiently at a large table. The room he was sitting in was very basic; furnished with nothing more than the large table and simple chairs going all around. The room was part of a modest mansion on an island of the Batay Sea. The mansion was the best neutral site for the meeting that was about to take place. Most would say it was hardly a fitting place for what was about to happen. However, considering the nature of the events that were soon to occur Vilisik did not think that anyone involved would be focusing on the room décor.

To Vilisik's right sat Queen Calasta of Isis. Vilisik could only imagine that as bad as the past two weeks had been for him they had been much worse for her. Two weeks ago Suzanne and her party revealed that they had revived the godbird Ramia. Suzanne and Ramia then traveled to the different nations and had Ramia show them the Archfiend's armies. Vilisik had hardly been able to sleep since he saw the Archfiend's power.

Romaly's military strength was as good as that of any other nation. Considering the empire's poor relationship with Portoga, another powerful nation, Vilisik and his predecessors had been certain to keep their country's strength up. But as great as his forces were, Vilisik knew they were nothing compared to the army he had seen gathered around Venorl Castle.

Vilisik began to think about the might of the other nations. Historically, Isis was known for their determined defense of the desert. They were quite adapt at fighting in the heat and dealing with the monsters of the desert. But Vilisik was sure the Archfiend had monsters that were accustomed to heat that the warriors of Isis had not seen before. And Vilisik was also sure that the Isisian military would be much less effective outside of the desert.

Also seated at the table was Timik, a representative of the city-state of Jipang. Vilisik expected little help from Jipang. They had been terrorized by a single, powerful monster with no minions or army. Nevertheless the people of Jipang were known for their craftsmanship and it was said that some of the old, forgotten techniques for making equipment were still known to their smiths. Any help was welcome at this point.

"Now announcing His Majesty, King Crayton the Fourth of Samanao."

The man looked in pretty good shape for the horror he had gone through. That said fatigue and weakness were still visible on the otherwise proud face of King Crayton. Although they undoubtedly would be of more help than Jipang, Vilisik did not think he could count on much from the Samanaons. The troll had left Samanao a wreck and reports indicated that Crayton was still dealing with rebellions. Vilisik had to hand it to the Archfiend; even with such an overwhelmingly large force it was still smart enough to weaken its opposition before war began

"Now announcing His Majesty, King Rogest of Eginbear."

In walked the friendy king of Eginbear. Vilisik had never trusted Rogest. The emperor suspected that Rogest's cheerful demeanor was an act to lure people off guard. But Vilisik had to admire the man's resilience. Rogest walked into the room and immediately took up small talk with the other rulers. He did not seem bothered in the slightest by the matter they had all gathered to discuss. Vilisik also had to respect the might of Eginbear. Though Rogest would normally assure people that Eginbear had no interest in war Vilisik knew that Eginbear had a great military. If Rogest agreed to join them it would make Vilisik feel a bit better but there was still one more nation Vilisik thought was critical to their efforts.

"Now announcing His Majesty, King Saldor of Portoga."

Vilisik could not remember ever being happy to see Saldor. However, his presence now was most welcome. Portoga's strength rivaled that of the empire. Their navy was without match. Now all the major powers had gathered. With their combined might they had a chance against the Archfiend. But Vilisik knew well that just because Saldor had shown up did not mean he would cooperate.

Vilisik looked around the table. Almost everyone that was invited had arrived. An invitation had been extended to Queen Talia of the elves. As Vilisik expected, Talia declined the invitation. However, Vilisik was surprised when Talia did decide that the elves would contribute some magical items should an alliance be made. Apparently, the elves had great respect for Ramia and her words carried great weight with Talia.

Besides Talia, one other person had been invited but had yet to show. But given who this person represented and the already fragile climate in the meeting room Vilisik wondered if it was best that this person not appear. However, as soon as Vilisik completed that thought the bard came in again.

"Now announcing His Majesty, King Neil of Aliahan."

It was the first time Vilisik had ever seen the ruler of Aliahan. It was believed that with the odds stacked against humanity they could not afford to exclude anyone who could help. Old hatreds and mistrust would have to be put at least far enough to the side to deal with this greater, mortal threat. Despite having never met his peers inside the room, Neil walked in with dignity and greeted all of them with a king's grace. Most of the other rulers returned his greeting. However, Vilisik noticed, as he was sure everyone else did, that Saldor refused to speak or even look at Neil.

"I believe everyone has arrived who is expected to arrive," declared Vilisik. "Shall we begin?"

"Yes, we shall," answered Saldor. "And I exercise my right as the eldest of those assembled to speak first." The right Saldor referenced was common in international meetings and was believed to have originated in the Second Great War.

"This meeting is a waste of time," declared Saldor as he stood up. "We have all seen the Archfiend's army. How many of you truly believe that even our combined forces can stand against them in the field? Better for us all to tend to our own countries. The world is a big place and the Archfiend will have to spread its military significantly to take it all. The best chance for any one of us is to raise our defenses and hope the monster tires before it reaches his or her country."

Saldor sat down, indicating that his opening statement was finished. "With all due respect," replied Crayton, "Your strategy plays right into our enemy's hands. I have seen what the Archfiend can do to a country that shuts itself away. While you build up your walls, the Archfiend will send its agents to corrode your nation from within. The Archfiend has only gained so much power because we have been too distracted by our differences to cooperate against it. That must be turned around now!"

It was Rogest's turn, "Great points by both you fine gentlemen. I am afraid I must agree with King Saldor. No doubt an alliance between all our great nations would be quite glorious. But there is a time for glory and a time for being practical. And what is most practical is for Eginbear to mind to its own business as it always has."

Rogest took his seat. It was difficult to tell who between Timik and Neil was older, which would decide who would go next. Most of the room looked at Timik to go next. Timik decided to defer giving his opinion until later. Neil did the same. Vilisik had a feeling this was for the best. Little weight would be given to Timik's words and, despite how courteous most of the other rulers had been to him, Vilisik believed the rest would look unfavorably on anything Neil had to say.

Vilisik thought it was most to his advantage to go last and so he deferred as well. This brought up Queen Calasta. "So this is the thanks that the Kingdom of Isis receives? We all know what nation the Archfiend will target first! It is easy for you all to run back to your homes hoping that we provide enough of a blood sacrifice to the monsters to keep them from your doorsteps. I hear this cowardly bunch speak and I wonder about the Second Great War myself."

"For if you remember, Isis came to the aid of the alliance against Desmond," continued Calasta scathingly. "King Saldor, I know you of all people remember the Battle of the Sandswept Plains! Do you think it would have gone so well without Isis's aid? Have all of you forgotten that Desmond had no interest in the desert? My people could have sided with him. At the time it seemed like the smart move. By siding with your peoples Isis put itself at risk. Yet Isis still came to your aid in your hour of need. But now I wonder if that was a mistake. Would the tyrant Desmond have been any worse than you cowards?"

Though Calasta had not sat down to indicate she was done speaking, Saldor rose up to answer her. "Cowards, you say? Perhaps you are correct, Queen Calasta. My duty is not to be brave. My duty is not to be honorable. My duty is not to repay a supposed debt to Isis nor is it to protect the world. My duty is to protect Portoga and its people! And I will do whatever is necessary to protect my people! If Portoga and its people survive then regardless of what I have to do or what the cost is I will have no regrets!"

With Saldor speaking out of turn the other rulers began to rise and speak as well. Vilisik rose from his seat but, unlike the others, did not join the argument. Even Timik and Neil, who had seemed timid a moment ago, joined the shouting. Vilisik slowly circled the room as the other rulers argued. After another minute, he finally decided to make his move.

"Attention!" boomed Vilisik, his voice somehow carrying above the noise made by the others. Everyone else in the room stopped shouting in response, allowing Vilisik to bring his voice to a normal speaking level. "Everyone, I thank you for your patience but I am now ready to make my opening statement."

The other rulers were still agitated from their arguing. Although they decided to hear Vilisik out none of them returned to their seats. Nevertheless, Vilisik continued, "Queen Calasta was correct about one thing: we are all afraid. I do not mean that as an insult; only a complete fool would not be afraid after seeing what we have."

"The question is: will the Archfiend tire out and settle after destroying a couple nations? I say to all of you that the monster did not raise the army that has kept us awake at nights to settle for half the world. It wants the entire world and it will not tire and it will not relent until we are all wiped out."

"We all know that if the enemy commander is taken out it deals a huge blow to the enemy army. We also know that this is truer than ever against the Archfiend's army. It is the magic of the Archfiend, and that magic alone, that holds that army together. As horrible as Desmond was it has to be said that he knew how to defeat an Archfiend's army. Destroy the Archfiend and we destroy its army."

"Easy for you to say," cut in Saldor. "I have seen both the armies of last two Archfiends. He may have been a military genius but even Desmond could not have cut through to this Archfiend. They are not idiots. This Archfiend will not put itself in danger."

"But we have something that Desmond did not," said Vilisik. "The phoenix Ramia has come back to life and has agreed to join our fight. With her help we can bypass a large portion of the enemy forces."

"It is a long shot, I will admit it. But is it any longer a shot than to go home and hope the big bad monster just goes away? Will we timidly abandon our fellow human beings and hope our nation is not the next target? Or will we take the fight to our enemy? Will we put up a fight to be remembered? We know the enemy's greatest weakness! We have an ace in the hole! I say we go out there, together, and bring the full might of humanity against those monsters! If it is our fate to die, let us go down in the history of monsters as the greatest horror they ever had to deal with! Let us become the cause of their nightmares!"

Vilisik did not take his seat after his speech concluded but looked around the room at the other rulers, challenging them with his gaze just as he had just challenged them with his words. Rogest was the first to respond.

"Wonderful speech!" congratulated Rogest, clapping as he did so. "Full of passion and vigor! How could I let such emotional words go to waste? Very well, Emperor, you have my support and the support of Eginbear."

Internally, Vilisik was incredibly relieved. But he had not won everyone over yet. He kept his relief from his face as he continued to look around the room. As his gaze fell on Crayton the man spoke up, "You already had my support but a stirring speech all the same." Calasta and Timik gave similar replies. Neil only nodded when Vilisik looked at him but Vilisik understood that to mean that Aliahan would cooperate as well.

The room turned to Saldor. Everyone knew it would be almost impossible to take on the Archfiend without Portoga's considerable might. Saldor seemed as though he were in an even sourer mood than he had been when Calasta had begun insulting him.

After a moment, Saldor spoke, "I give no guarentees and I do not pledge Portoga's support. Nevertheless, let us bring in our generals, our best military minds, and the godbird Ramia. If we can come up with a plan that I believe has more than a fool's chance at succeeding then Portoga will join this alliance."

"Well guys, our journey's finally over," said Suzanne.

"Yeah," answered Ron. "Looking back on it all, I can't believe all the stuff we did."

"That's because we're the best!" exclaimed Alice. "Nobody else could've done what we did. We brought the nations together!"

"We accomplished a lot," agreed Thomas. "We've given humanity a chance. Now comes the toughest part: fighting for our survival."

"Tom's right, it doesn't get any easier from here," said Suzanne. "Are you guys going to join the alliance army?"

"You better believe it!" exclaimed Ron. "Those monsters won't know what hit 'em!"

"The emperor told us that our king is here," mentioned Suzanne. "Are you going to talk to him as soon as they're done meeting?"

"I don't know," answered Ron. "We all know how puny Aliahan's military is compared to the other nations. And I don't think the other nations have forgotten their mistrust of us. I don't think Aliahan will be given any important missions. I don't want to be stuck guarding supply lines or something like that. Put me in the vanguard!"

Thomas scoffed, "Reckless as always. Are you so eager to kill that you would put yourself in that kind of danger?"

"Hey, someone has to be on the front lines," defended Ron. "Why not me? I can do some damage. And better to look forward to it with excitement than sulk. Poor morale can do more damage than monster claws after all."

"I take it you won't be joining him up there, Tom?" asked Suzanne.

"Not if I can help it," answered Thomas. "I'll support the army from the healing tents."

"I think you're wasting an opportunity, Tom," said Ron. "Your swordwork's really come along! You're probably better than most soldiers! And you could save a lot of lives if you were right there when they got injured."

"I will do whatever is needed of me," said Thomas. "If my commander decides I would be more useful in combat I will join. But I believe I can be of most help in the healing tents. I am not as skilled at healing in combat as I am outside of it."

"How about you, Alice?" asked Suzanne.

"I don't know," answered Alice. "With my magic and combat skills, I certainly have a lot of options. I think I'd be at my best training soldiers and mages. That way I could spread my skills over the widest range and hopefully I could teach a lot of people how to stay alive out there. What about you, Susie? I'm sure you already have a plan."

"Believe it or not, I don't," said Suzanne with a chuckle. "I never thought about what would happen after our quest. I guess I naively thought our job would be over, as though the Archfiend would catch wind that humanity was uniting against it and run away. When we met Ramia I felt relieved. For some reason, I felt like we wouldn't have to fight anymore."

"You've done a lot," said Thomas. "You brought this all together. You led us through this whole journey. You gave a lot of yourself; more than anybody. Nobody can look down on you if you don't think you have anything left."

"Thanks, Tom," said Suzanne. "But I began this journey for a reason: to save humanity from the Archfiend. Uniting the nations was a large part of that but it was only a part. I'm not going to hand off the responsibility now. I don't know what the best way for me to serve is. But I'll figure it out."

"We know you will, Susie," said Ron.

"Hey! Here comes Emperor Vilisik!" pointed out Alice. The emperor had been giving the four updates during every recess in the discussions.

"He doesn't look very happy," commented Thomas.

"How are the discussions going, Your Highness?" asked Suzanne when the emperor had reached the group.

"We have come up with a plan," he answered. "A plan good enough to convince King Saldor to formally join our alliance."

"You do not sound very enthusiastic about this plan," pointed out Suzanne.

"I agree that it gives us our best chance," answered the emperor. "But even if we are successful the cost will be high."

The emperor began explaining the plan, "As expected, our best chance of winning the coming war is to assassinate the Archfiend. Our plan depends on Ramia and the monster's own intelligence. In the Second Great War Desmond was able to defeat the Archfiend quickly. He had his main force engage the enemy head-on while a smaller force of elite fighters broke off from the main group. They snuck around the main enemy force and rushed at Venorl Castle."

"From what we know of Archfiends they are smart enough not to risk themselves by going into the open field of battle but arrogant enough to fight a small group of humans by themselves. Desmond took advantage of this. When his small force made it to Venorl instead of recalling a portion of his army to crush them the Archfiend fought them itself. From what we know, the Archfiend would consider it an insult to retreat from a small group of humans."

"As I mentioned, we plan to use the Archfiend's intelligence against it. We believe that this Archfiend knows what led to the downfall of its predecessor. So we plan to maneuver as though we plan to copy Desmond's strategy from fifty years ago. Our hope is that the Archfiend, rather than taking the same chance that the last one did, will quickly move some of its forces to crush both the main forces and the side force. This will leave Venorl itself relatively empty."

"This is where Ramia comes in. Ramia will participate in battle with the main force so as to disguise our true intentions. We will keep her out of strenuous battle but have her participate enough to be noticed by the enemy. Once the time is right Ramia will begin transporting the most elite fighters we have to Venorl Castle. We believe it is best if she takes five at a time."

"Five!?" exclaimed Thomas. "I'm not a student of military history but didn't Desmond have dozens of warriors with him when he reached Venorl? And even then he barely won with his life!"

"We do not expect five warriors to storm Venorl," answered the emperor. "Ramia will keep making trips back to the main force to pick up more. The initial five need only hold their position and survive long enough for backup to arrive. In our discussions we believe Ramia can manage three trips before the Archfiend recalls some of its forces and they arrive back at Venorl."

"That makes fifteen," said Ron. "Fifteen of humanity's best against Venorl and the Archfiend. Some might call that…" He cut himself off.

"A suicide mission," finished Suzanne.

"Which makes what I am about to ask your four even tougher," continued Emperor Vilisik. "We need our very best at Venorl to have a chance of pulling this off. I have seen and heard about the deeds you four have accomplished. To be frank, you are the best. I request that the four of you join the team that will infiltrate Venorl Castle and destroy the Archfiend."

There was a moment of silence while the four thought about what the emperor had asked of them. Suzanne quickly came to a decision.

"I will do it," she declared. "I cannot speak for the other three but I have made up my mind. This mission is the most important part of the coming war. I would be honored to take part in it."

"Well then you can count me in too!" exclaimed Ron. "Can't get any further to the front than storming the enemy's castle after all!"

"I guess that means I better come along," said Alice, feigning exasperation. "You guys would be lost without me after all."

"As though we won't be lost with you along!" laughed Ron. "Do you have a map of Venorl?"

"Well…no. But I can make one!" answered Alice.

"The lot of you will get sliced and diced the moment you land," said Thomas with a scowl. "You'll need someone there to patch you up."

"Are you volunteering?" asked Suzanne.

"I must. There aren't too many healers that can keep up with you three," answered Thomas.

"It sounds like you all have made up your mind!" said the emperor. "And here I thought I might have to talk you into it. Good, hopefully the other rulers are able to talk their elite warriors into joining so easily."

With an alliance created and a plan formed the nations of the world quickly moved their militaries towards the Necrogond. Ramia and magic were the keys. Ramia was able to transport an advanced group of warriors, including Suzanne's group, into the Necrogond. Included in this group were a number of wizards. The wizards worked tirelessly to establish a teleportation waypoint for the army while being protected by Ramia and the warriors. Normally a month long process; this time it only took two and a half weeks due to the expertise of those involved. It was during this time that Alice celebrated her 19th birthday. She spent the day working on the waypoint.

With the waypoint in place the moving of the alliance armies went a lot quicker. Wizards worked tirelessly in teleporting groups of soldiers to the Necrogond. The placing of the waypoint was a key decision. It had to be far enough away to keep the Archfiend from destroying it before enough soldiers arrived to establish a camp and bolster the waypoint's defense. Yet it had to offer a tactically advantageous position for the battle to come.

While the alliance army established itself in the Necrogond some of humanity's best warriors and mages secretly met to spar and compete against each other. The rulers were very careful who they revealed their plan to; if word of the plan reached the Archfiend everything would be for naught. Yet they also had to decide who would make the Venorl strike team and in what order the warriors would be transported. The first wave had to be the strongest to give them the best chance of surviving in Venorl while they waited for reinforcements to arrive. Most of the rulers insisted that his or her warriors should be on the first team.

The four participated in several of these contests. All four were involved in a number of swordfights while all but Ron also competed in several tests of magical skill. Ron, already a master swordsman, improved rapidly during this time. Having time to adjust his fighting style to his new equipment without actually fighting for his life helped him immensely. Alice gained recognition for her skill as a sage and her magical abilities quickly gained recognition in the camp. Thomas became known for his rare blend of healing magic and swordplay; a man who could support his comrades and join them in the fray. Finally, Suzanne's varied skills and stories of her leadership from the group's quest put her in strong consideration for the first team.

Just over a week after the waypoint had been established, the most accomplished military leaders and commanders held a secret meeting to decide on the teams that would invade Venorl. They had carefully watched and analyzed all the warriors that had been presented to them. Unknowing of when the decision would be reached, the warriors could only help out around camp and wait.

"The nerve of him!" exclaimed Alice. "We're about to enter into the most important battle of our lives and he still has only one thing on his mind!" Ron was a short distance away talking with a woman.

"Um, I believe she approached him," said Suzanne. "She seemed to have something important to talk with him about."

"What matters of importance could she possibly have to speak with him about? She doesn't even know him!" protested Alice.

"Alice, calm down!" answered Suzanne. "You're letting your nerves get to you."

"She seems to have taken an interest in his sword," observed Thomas. Suzanne and Alice gave him weird looks until he pointed back towards Ron. Ron had taken out the blade he had found in the Necrogond and both he and the woman were observing it closely. The woman seemed emotional as she looked at the weapon. After some time, she hugged Ron and walked away. Ron walked towards the other three.

"What was that about?" asked Alice, some irritation in her voice still.

"That was the wife of the man who made this sword," answered Ron, not seeming to notice Alice's foul mood. "They're from Jipang. I guess her husband was a master craftsman. She was absolutely sure this sword was of his work."

"How did it end up in the Necrogond?" asked Suzanne.

"I guess he only liked to work with the very best materials," answered Ron. "Sometimes he had to go to some very dangerous places to find them. Apparently, he was quite skilled with weapons and magic and so was usually able to take care of himself. Last she heard, he embarked on a journey to gather materials and disappeared. The fact that we found his sword would indicate that he met his end in the Necrogond. She told me that he called this sword the Sword of Thunder. Makes sense; the explosions this thing makes sound like thunder."

"What's she doing out here?" asked Thomas. "Doesn't she know how dangerous it is here?"

"Apparently she's a decent fighter herself," replied Ron. "She's a part of the Jipang military. She saw me in a couple of my fights and said she had to confirm that I had her husband's sword."

A young man, around the same age as the four, approached them. "I have an urgent message for Suzanne, Ron, Thomas, and Alice," he declared. He handed one scroll to each of the four and quickly left. The four opened their scrolls and read them.

"They're splitting us up?" asked Alice after she had finished reading. The scrolls said that Ron and Alice would be included in the first group to Venorl while Suzanne and Thomas would be in the second group.

"This sucks! Who did they pick over you two?" asked Ron, re-reading his scroll.

"It would seem Viron of Eginbear was chosen for cleric of the first team," answered Thomas. "A wise choice. There isn't a cleric more skilled in the healing arts."

"Bah! I saw the man," said Ron with a scowl. "He's way past his prime. He'll only slow us down. Let's see who was given command of this group."

"Commander Glennard of Portoga," said Alice with disdain. "He can't use magic like Susie can! I've never even heard of him commanding mages in the field!"

"But he did beat me in a swordfight and he has a lot of experience in command," said Suzanne. "You don't know that he's never commanded mages. He's been through a lot of battles; I would be surprised to find out that there wasn't a mage in his unit for any of them. The first team will do well under him."

"All the same, how could they break us up like this?" asked Alice. "We've been fighting together for over a year and a half now! We know what each other is going to do, how to work together! We're best when we're together!"

"Listen, this isn't about us," said Suzanne. "This is about the mission. And the best military minds in the world decided these were the teams that were going to work. Glennard and Viron are both highly accomplished. They won't let you down. And we'll always be a team. Tom and I will be right behind you out there."

"Susie's right," agreed Thomas. "We went on this journey to bring humanity together. We'd be hypocrites if we let this bother us."

"You have a point," replied Alice. "Well, Ron, we should probably find everyone else on this team. We're going to want to get some practice in with them before the big battle."

It was not long before the Archfiend moved its forces against the alliance army. A mere two days after the strike teams were decided scouts came to the camp and announced the enemy was advancing. The camp roused itself and prepared for the battle of their lives.

The battle was lost almost as soon as it began when the army saw the great host in front of them. Thankfully, the officers and commanders of the army were able to bolster their troops. Ramia flew ahead of the army and used her magic to attack and destroy a large number of monsters. Seeing the godbird in action did wonders for the army's morale.

The army managed to take up a position between two mountains which bottlenecked a large portion of the enemy army, keeping them from taking advantage of their vastly superior numbers. Of course, many monsters were able to cross or fly over mountains, putting great pressure on the humans' flanks. Once again, Ramia proved invaluable. Although unable to take on the sheer number of enemies coming at them she was able to warn the human armies of approaching danger.

The early phases of the plan were executed excellently. A small force branched off from the main army and began circling around the battlefield. Ramia helped clear the way for the small force which allowed them to move without encountering much opposition. After some time, the enemy clearly tired of Ramia's constant interference on the battlefield and sent a concentrated force of flying monsters after her. Ramia was easily able to escape the aerial strike force and led them into the firing path of the archers and siege weaponry that had been designed to take groups of such monsters down.

For two days the battle went as well as could be hoped for the forces of humanity. Their strategic position minimized casualties and allowed them to take out large numbers of the attacking monsters. The side force reported that they were almost ready to launch an attack on Venorl Castle. However, the human commanders knew that a catastrophic loss was just around the corner. Despite their gains, their efforts had made but a scratch in the monstrous army. And the human warriors had to deal with fatigue while the monsters' numbers were so great that often a monster would slay a tired comrade to get it out of the way. Many monsters did not seem to ever tire.

On that third day Ramia relayed a message to the commanding officers that the side force had begun their attack and, as was expected, a large force of creatures left Venorl Castle to crush them. Ramia returned to the main force and the five members of the first strike team assembled. The time had come to launch their plan.

Ron and Alice climbed onto Ramia's back along with their three teammates. Suzanne and Thomas, along with many others, were there to see them off.

"Be careful out there!" said Suzanne. "We'll be with you again before you know it!"

"Please stay alive!" called Thomas.

"Relax, you guys!" called Ron back. "The Archfiend won't even know what hit it!"

"You can say that again!" said Alice enthusiastically. "We'll try not to kill the beast before you guys get there!"

Suzanne laughed. "Oh no, by all means, if you can take the thing down before we get there I won't be angry!"

The four shared some nervous laughter, a forced laughter that did not hide the anxiety they all felt. Ramia finally took to the skies and the first team was off.

Do not fear, said Ramia as she began flying away. I am sure they will fight valiantly. Be ready for my return.

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