The Hero of Legend

Chapter 38: Sources of Light

The heroes went to see Kandar's friend in the castle. Kandar's friend worked in the castle kitchens. One night after all the other workers had gone home the four were let into the castle kitchens where they could take the Stones of Sunlight. As Kandar had said, his friend was indeed eager to be rid of such high-profile items.

It was easy to see how the man had kept the Stones for so long without anyone else realizing what they were. There were three Stones. The largest Stone fit perfectly into Suzanne's hand while the smallest could be called a pebble. They emitted a soft light.

At first, the group was thrown off by how underwhelming the Stones seemed. Then Alice performed her usual analysis on the Stones. Despite their humble appearance, Alice assured the group there was mysterious power within them.

"The trick here is that the Stones are only emitting a little of their power," said Alice. "They are storing a great deal of their power inside, unused at the moment. Right now, a good lantern would give off more light than these things. However, if we could tap into their whole power it would illuminate a whole area as though the sun was out."

"What do you mean by a whole area?" asked Suzanne.

"I mean, if we were outside in a fairly wide open spot of plains, we would think we were in the upper world for a moment," answered Alice.

"That sounds pretty awesome!" exclaimed Ron. "If we throw that much light in Zoma's face I'm sure it won't like that at all!"

"So we'd blind it for a second," said Thomas. "I imagine it will take more than that to take down Zoma."

"I don't know if we should use them against Zoma at all," said Alice. "We were told the Stones of Sunlight would be used to reach the Archfiend's island, not in combat against the monster itself."

"We'll have to figure out a way to use this gift," said Suzanne. "But for now, let's return to the upper world."

The four returned to the upper world. It was nice to see the sun again. As Ramia was involved in the magic to return them to the upper world she was able to sense that the group had returned. The heroes talked with Ramia over what had been happening since the heroes had left.

It is difficult to confirm but I believe Zoma has been at work in this world, said Ramia. There have been numerous attacks near borders on official personnel. Relations between Portoga and the Romalian Empire are deteriorating again. My suspicion is that Zoma is organizing covert attacks and staging them so that one country believes another is responsible.

"It is the master of Baramos, after all," said Thomas. "Baramos built its power while the nations refused to work together."

I have tried to calm the leaders of the nations down and present my findings but they do not listen to me, continued Ramia. King Saldor will not grant me audience anymore. Even Emperor Vilisik makes efforts to dodge meeting with me.

"Couldn't we take them to Alefgard?" asked Alice. "If they saw what it's like there and heard the people they would have to realize the threat Zoma presents!"

"Good luck getting them to jump into the Great Pit of Giaga," said Thomas. "We'd have to tell them to jump down an apparently bottomless pit on the good faith that we can and would return them. And given how they don't want to believe anything about Zoma, they'd probably still think we conjured up a powerful illusion."

"None of them want to believe that there's something worse than Baramos coming for them," said Suzanne. "And Zoma is already spreading mistrust. At this rate, it could launch a direct attack on another nation, as it did Aliahan, and they would think it was an attack made by one of their neighbors."

Other than Portoga and Romaly things are not so bad yet, corrected Ramia. But they are not improving.

However, there is another matter to attend to, said Ramia. There is a place I wish to bring the four of you.

"Where is that?" asked Suzanne.

Have you ever been to the Forest of the World Tree? asked Ramia.

"We were at the outskirts of the forest, once," answered Suzanne.

Northwest of that forest are some tall mountains. Mountains that no human has ever climbed. On the top of these mountains is a castle. It is there that we shall go, said Ramia.

"How can there be a castle there if no human has ever been to the top?" asked Ron.

Humans are not the only ones to build castles, explained Ramia. Indeed, you will see several unfamiliar beings at this castle. Do not be alarmed and do not draw your weapons. The residents there are allies to our cause.

"They'll help us against Zoma?" asked Suzanne.

Not directly, I'm afraid, said Ramia. But they can still give us some aid. Now we must leave quickly. My reasons will become apparent after we arrive.

The four rode on Ramia and after a day of flying they arrived at the castle. As Ramia had said, the mountains upon which the castle stood were quite steep; rivaling even the Necrogond. The castle itself was large though not very decorative. The heroes returned to their feet and approached the gate. They were met by some horses. However, these horses had horns in the center of their heads. Further, they were able to speak.

"Halt!" said one. "Who is it that approaches the castle?"

They are with me, said Ramia.

"Friends of Lady Ramia?" asked the horse that had spoken. "Then you must be… Come! There is little time! Our mistress awaits you!"

Is she unable to come up here? asked Ramia.

"Alas, it is so, my lady," answered the horse. "Our mistress would dearly like to speak with you again. Instead, you must pass any message meant for her to us."

Tell her that I am sorry she must suffer so much, said Ramia. But assure her that her son will be safe.

"On behalf of our mistress, we give you our thanks, milady," said the horse. "Now we must proceed."

The horses led the group into the castle. Inside there were some large pools. The pools were so spacious that it would take a man quite some time to swim from end to end. The horses led the four to a large building in the center of the court.

Ron and Alice fell back a bit as the group walked. "What is up with those horses?" asked Ron.

"They're unicorns," answered Alice. "I didn't know any still existed! They're said to be wise creatures with powerful healing abilities."

The unicorns led the group to the building but stopped there. "Go inside. Jordan should be there. Tell him you are the ones Lady Ramia spoke of. He will lead you to our mistress."

The four did as they were told and entered the building. Inside was a dwarf sitting sullenly at a table. Suzanne approached him and relayed the unicorn's message.

"Greetings," said Suzanne. "We are friends of Ramia and we are here to meet with your mistress. The guard outside told us to seek you."

"I see. Well then we had best hurry," replied the dwarf. "Our mistress will not be here for much longer."

"Does she plan on taking a trip?" asked Suzanne.

"The greatest of trips," answered the dwarf. "She is dying. Soon she will lay an egg and in it will be her son. But her son will come in exchange for her life."

"I'm so sorry," said Suzanne. "If it is not out of place to ask, how do you know that giving birth to her son will cost her her life?"

"She has been cursed by the Master Archfiend," answered the dwarf. "It saw our mistress as too great a threat and so cursed her to remove her."

"You know it was the Master Archfiend that did this?" asked Suzanne. "I did not know that any in this world knew of Zoma."

"Our mistress is still quite powerful," said the dwarf. "She knows the source of her distress. And she knows of the Master Archfiend. She is aware of the true threat to this world."

The dwarf took the four through several doors towards the center of the building. Like the outside, the interior of the building was not decorated at all. Unlike the exterior, the rooms on the inside were very cramped. The dwarf took the heroes to a thin hallway. The four thought the dwarf was leading them across the hallway. Instead, the dwarf stopped halfway through and tapped on the stone wall to their right. A secret passage opened up.

"Go," commanded the dwarf. "Our mistress awaits." He motioned into the passageway.

The group proceeded through the passageway. On the otherside they emerged into a large courtyard. The courtyard was surrounded on all sides by the central building but was quite spacious. Light from the sun shone down on the area.

There was a dragon laying there as the four arrived. It was the largest dragon the group had ever seen, probably even the biggest monster the four had ever encountered. The dragon was terrible to behold. Its body was covered in thick, blue scales. On its head were two wicked, red horns. Under its belly and wings was a frightening orange.

The four instinctively began to draw their weapons. Then Suzanne remembered the warning Ramia had given them and motioned for the group to stop. However, this exchange did not go unnoticed by the dragon.

"Typical humans," growled the dragon. "Always wishing to draw blood. And yet now we must lay our hopes upon you."

"We apologize for our rudeness," said Suzanne. "We were startled to see a being as formidable as you."

"Save your excuses," ordered the dragon. The dragon then gave a long roar. At first the group thought the dragon roared out of anger at their actions. However, the end of her roar sounded pained.

The dragon spoke again, "I am the Dragon Queen. I will not dignify you with the honor of my true name. And I have already heard of your names from Lady Ramia."

"Ramia had a message for you," said Suzanne. "She said she is sorry that you have to suffer so much. She wanted us to assure you that your son will be safe."

The dragon gave another pained roar. "Hollow words. She knows as well as I do that none are safe so long as Zoma lives. Even you humans know that."

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

"It is your thirst for blood I would call upon," replied the Dragon Queen. "Turn that thirst towards Zoma. Though you will need more than bloodlust to fight such a foe. Do you have the courage?"

Suzanne was again reminded of the words the king of Aliahan had spoken to her at the start of their journey. "We do."

At that the Dragon Queen stood up. Even in pain, the dragon was a magnificent and yet terrible sight to behold. The sky darkened as the Dragon Queen spoke again. Her voice was already loud and authoritative but this time it seemed to boom throughout the area.

"If you possess the courage to do battle with the Archfiend I will give unto you the Sphere of Light! I hope, with this Sphere of Light, that you can hasten the return of peace to this land."

After that, a light appeared. Even though the area had darkened this light was so bright that it might have been a second sun. Yet somehow the light was not blinding or difficult to look at, as the sun is. The four found themselves walking forward, drawn to the light. As they neared its source they realized the light was coming from a spherical orb hovering in front of them. Realizing that this was the Sphere of Light that the Dragon Queen had mentioned, Suzanne took hold of it.

The sun returned to the sky above. Even with the sun's bright rays shining down without a cloud in the sky to block it, the Sphere of Light seemed to outshine the sun. Then the Sphere's light diminished. The Sphere itself still glowed brilliantly but somehow it did not give any of its light of to its surroundings. Suzanne held it, wondering what she should do.

Then the Dragon Queen gave another roar. This was even louder and more pained than her other roars had been. Her servants came forward then, dwarves and unicorns. The four stepped backward to get out of the way and let them attend to their mistress. The Dragon Queen continued to roar in agony.

It took over an hour. For the entire time the Dragon Queen roared in pain. Her servants tried to help and comfort her as best they could. The four tried to help with whatever healing spells they had but none of it had any effect.

Finally, an egg appeared. The egg was magnificent to see. It was covered in orange and blue patterns that swirled about the surface of the egg. Immediately after the egg's appearance the Dragon Queen collapsed. She had died.

Though they had known the Dragon Queen for only a matter of minutes the four joined the rest of the castle in mourning her passing. The next day they decided to take a break and relax in the upper world. For at least that one day, the troubles of the Alefgard and the weight of their task were lifted. When they returned to the dark land they felt renewed.

The heroes went back to Cantlin to continue where they had left off. This time, the group researched more than just what they could find about Zoma and the Armor of Radiance. They researched techniques in fighting and magic as well. Suzanne realized that the group had not been keeping up with their training and so had tasked them with brushing up and learning what they could about the magic and fighting styles of Alefgard. They read and practiced many of the skills developed by the Gardians and added them to their repertoire.

Ron learned many new skills with the sword. Though most Gardians preferred not to draw attention to themselves in the present day there had apparently been some great swordsman in Alefgard's history. Thomas learned new magic. He learned how to conjure up a mighty whirlwind with almost the strength of a tornado. He also further practiced his healing spells, particularly the one that could bring a person back from the brink of death. With the techniques of Alefgard he believed he had come close to perfecting it.

Alice learned a way to further strengthen her fireball spell. Her fireball was now as powerful as Baramos's had been, with the capability to explode into a tower of flame. She believed she was close to discovering how to match its explosion spell too. Alice also learned much about healing and was now able to match all but Thomas's most powerful healing spells. Suzanne progressed greatly as well, learning the same sword skills Ron was learning and studying magic with Thomas and Alice. Suzanne's healing skills developed immensely, she even learned Thomas's spell to bring someone back from near death though she was not as skilled as he with it.

Further, Suzanne felt as though she was on the brink of discovering new and great powers. As she studied the techniques of Alefgard she began to believe that even more incredible powers were within her grasp. When she cast magic it was as though there was some part deep within her that was waiting to be called upon. Thomas and Alice helped her explore the possibility of these new powers.

"There is definitely something mysterious about your magic, Susie," said Alice. "I can sense it whenever you cast a spell. It reminds me of Ramia, actually: there is some power within you that is mysterious yet incredible as she is."

"I must agree with Alice," said Thomas. "When I see you cast healing spells there is a quality to it that I can't quite put my finger on. But I believe you're very close to figuring it out. When you do, you will work better spells than I have ever cast."

"Surely you're exaggerating, Tom," replied Suzanne. "You've been studying healing your whole life. There is no way I could match that."

"This power isn't something I sense within Tom or me," said Alice. "This mysterious force I sense in you isn't something that I sense in Tom or myself. I wonder if somehow some of Ramia's power has flowed into you and stayed there."

"In any case, we both feel strongly that we should continue to work on it," said Thomas.

"I agree. We'll need any power we can call upon, no matter how mysterious," declared Suzanne.

The city of Cantlin began to improve at long last. Ron and Garin continued to put on shows and put particular attention on Torin and his Golem. The story seemed to inspire many people as it had Alice. Torin found many people coming up to him and asking about his work. Some began to help him however they could while others decided to go back to work. Construction even resumed on the additions to the fortifications. There were still many too depressed to work but it seemed as though Cantlin was getting back on its feet.

After about two more months the snows and ice had nearly disappeared. Alice remarked at how strange it was for Alefgard not to have a longer winter due to the lack of sunlight, as was known to happen in portions of the upper world. Nevertheless, the four were not complaining. This allowed them to resume their journey shortly after Suzanne's birthday, which also marked the two-year anniversary of their quest.

The four decided that they would teleport back to Brecconaly and commandeer the Shadow Ferry. With the ice gone they could sail to the village of Kol. The heroes wanted to finally travel to the village and try to find the Fairy Flute they had heard of, fulfilling their promise to the widow they had met in Hauksness.

The journey to Kol would take some time. They had to sail out of the inlet near Tantegel and around the land. It would take about four days to make it to Kol. They also had to keep in mind what they had heard from Welcome when he had first given them the Shadow Ferry: that monsters would soon attack the vessel. The group had studied what they could of the local sea monsters but they had not found very much; the Shadow Ferry was apparently the only ship being used in all of Alefgard.

"That seems quite odd," Ron remarked when that fact had been revealed to him. "Come to think of it, I've seen maps of Alefgard but never heard of what's out there beyond this land."

"That's because nobody here is quite sure what's out there beyond Alefgard," said Alice. "Sail too far in any direction away from Alefgard and one will meet a wall of water. Some claim to have seen a top to this wall before but none have been able to get there. Some believe that this too is the work of Zoma."

"For all anyone knows, there could be a whole world out there as large as ours," said Thomas. "Maybe Zoma has control of them all but separates them so that the people of the world cannot rise up against it. Imagine if Baramos had done that; we would have stood no chance."

"Or maybe Zoma only has the power to hold Alefgard so he hides away from the rest of the world," said Ron.

"If we run out of options we may have to investigate this wall of water and see if we can break through somehow," said Suzanne. "If there is a whole world out there it would help Alefgard immensely if we could somehow rejoin Alefgard with it."

"Or join Alefgard with our world," suggested Alice.

"Bah! That would be no help," scoffed Thomas. "The nations of our world are too petty to want to ever help Alefgard."

At that moment Ron looked at the sea and saw something. "Guys! There's something climbing aboard!" he warned.

Three large orange and purple squid were climbing aboard. After Ron's warning the four stepped back and prepared for a fight. As soon as they climbed over the railing Alice greeted them with an ice spell. Jagged spires of ice shot up from the deck of the ship in several directions, cutting into the squids. One managed to avoid the worst of it and the other two were hardly deterred.

Thomas had wanted to join in with a spell of his own but the squids were already bearing down on the group. He, Suzanne, and Ron went forward to engage the enemies in melee. The squids beat upon the three with their large tentacles. The squids used their multiple tentacles to wedge into the group's formation. Thomas found himself with a squid to each side of him. A flurry of tentacles flew at him, smashing into him from a multitude of angles. He managed to block the first two and removed one tentacle with his sword but all the rest came through. After being beaten nearly to pulp the last blow sent him flying backwards into a mast. He tried desperately to remain conscious and get back to his feet.

Suzanne and Ron fared much better; as two of the squids had focused on Thomas only one had challenged the two of them. However, with all its tentacles Ron still took a couple blows to his side. Suzanne managed to block any that came her way with the Shield of Heroes.

"Alice! Help Tom! Be ready for close combat! Ron! Keep this one off my back!" Suzanne ordered. Suzanne then turned to drive her sword into the squid behind her. Even with its back turned, it whipped its limbs behind it to block Suzanne's path. Suzanne removed one tentacle and slashed into the creature's back but it had succeeded in lessening the damage. Ron likewise had trouble fighting his way to his opponent's torso.

Alice ran to Thomas and cast a healing spell on Thomas. Her increased skill in healing was rewarded as Thomas was then able to spring back to his feet, good as new. There was little respite, however. One of the squids came at the two. Before Thomas could get his shield up another tentacle sent him flying, this time over the side of the ship. He just barely managed to grab onto the side, holding on for dear life to avoid falling into the water. Meanwhile, several tentacles came for Alice too. She furiously fought and blocked the blows but one smashed into her head that almost made her black out.

Thankfully, the other squid that had attacked Thomas was now focused on Suzanne. It tried to turn around so that it could bring the full force of its attack upon her. Suzanne used the situation to her advantage. When the squid chose a direction to turn Suzanne cut at the tentacles as they tried to move by her. By the time the squid was able to face Suzanne many of its tentacles had then been detached. The squid screeched in pain and rage and tried to hit Suzanne with its remaining tentacles but Suzanne blocked most of the blows with her shield.

Ron now had a tougher time. His opponent was facing him and launched another flurry of blows at him. Ron realized that he needed to press the offensive to keep the squid from getting to his friends. Thus, he endured the attacks as he worked his way inside the squid's defenses. He took several heavy blows to both sides and narrowly avoided a blow to the head that would have knocked him out cold. He was rewarded for his pain by being able to slash open the squid's middle. The squid recoiled and backed away from him.

Still dazed from the last hit she took, Alice struggled to keep her squid at bay. Tentacles flew at her from her left and she viciously blocked and slashed at them, keeping them away. However, then tentacles flew at her from her right and she was too sluggish to turn and respond on time. She was beaten down to the ground, tossed near the edge of the ship. The squid pressed its advantage, readying all its tentacles in an upwards motion to finish Alice off.

Suddenly, a great whirlwind sprung up on the deck, cutting at the three squids. Thomas had managed to pull himself up just enough to get one of his hands free. This was sufficient for him to cast a spell. The squid Suzanne was fighting was in terrible shape now. Suzanne took advantage by slashing the squid across the eyes, blinding it. The squid was effectively incapacitated, flailing around with what tentacles it had left.

Even though she was on the brink of unconsciousness, somehow Alice managed to cast another spell. This time she healed herself and with that she was able to get back on her feet. However, Thomas was in a dire situation. The squid that had been about to finish Alice decided to go after him instead. He was still dangling off the edge of the ship and if the squid smashed him into the water he would likely lose consciousness and drown.

Fortunately, it did not pay adequate attention to what was behind it. With her squid blinded, Suzanne was able to help Thomas and Alice. There was no resistance to fight through so Suzanne buried her blade into the squid's back. The creature howled in agony but was unable to stop Suzanne. She buried her blade into the squid over and over until it stopped moving.

Meanwhile, Ron carried on his duel with the last squid. It was a war of attrition between the two. The squid pushed Ron away from it and then hammered on him with its tentacles. Ron cut away a couple of the tentacles but was beaten severely in return. Ron then tried to cut his way to the squid's torso again but the squid was ready. It brought a tentacle down right on Ron's head. This brought Ron to the ground. The squid then picked him up and flung him away.

The strength had left Ron's body. Sensing its opponent's weakened state, the squid slowly closed in, ready for the kill. Ron was seeing stars and his thoughts were clouded. As the squid drew near, Ron remembered something at the last moment. He spoke the command word and his Shield of Strength responded. The shield drew off the danger of his predicament and healed some of his wounds.

The squid did not realize what was happening. Thinking it was going in for an easy kill, it did not expect Ron to jump up. With its defenses down, Ron leapt above its tentacles and down to the creature's eyes. Ron destroyed the eyes with his jumping attack. Ron did not stop there. He slashed the creature's torso open until it was dead.

Seeing that Ron had managed to defeat his foe, the other three carefully approached the last squid, the one that was blinded by Suzanne's attack. They waited for the confused squid to expose a blind side and then rushed in to finish it off. Finally, all the squids were down.

"Those were some vicious creatures," said Ron afterwards, struggling to catch his breath.

"We'll need to figure out a better strategy for fighting them," said Suzanne. "I have a feeling those aren't the only of their kind we'll come across."

"I wonder why they came straight for us and didn't try to harm the ship at all?" thought Alice aloud.

"Welcome made it sound like Zoma permitted him to use this ship," said Thomas. "Perhaps the Archfiend wants to preserve this ship for its own uses."

"That makes some sense, Tom. If we keep fending off the attacks of its minions we'll have to be ready for them to change that strategy," said Suzanne.

On the fifth day of their trip, the four entered the village of Kol. It was the smallest settlement with a teleportation waypoint in all of Alefgard.

"A waypoint was established in Kol to connect the northeastern portion of Alefgard to the rest," explained Alice. "Other than that, Kol is the biggest settlement out here; there aren't a lot of people in this area. I guess at one time people would teleport to Kol and find a ship going to Rimuldar but swarms of monsters both on sea and on land have shut that practice down."

"I remember hearing from someone that they're building a tunnel going south on the southern end of this island," mentioned Ron.

"I guess they want to try and find another way to get people to Rimuldar," said Alice. "Rimuldar is a city of decent size. But with how difficult it is to get there and its close proximity to Charlock Castle Rimuldar has become as isolated from the rest of Alefgard as Cantlin. In fact, the only current ways to get to Rimuldar are teleportation, sailing, or going on foot from Hauksness. All are dangerous journeys."

"For the time being, let's see what we can find out in Kol," said Suzanne. "We'll start by finding the local hangouts and then see if this village has a library or anything like that to study from."

"What about the Fairy Flute, Susie?" asked Alice.

"From what the widow told us, she buried it in a public place when nobody was looking. We'll look for it under the same conditions," said Suzanne. "She was worried that it would fall into the wrong hands. It may take us some time to find it, if it's still here. I don't want to risk somebody seeing us and then finding it before us. We'll wait until night to look for it."

The four went about their business in the village. As they did so they began attracting some attention. Kol was a village that did not see newcomers very often. It was also small enough that the addition of a few people garnered some notice. The fact that the heroes were formidably armed also stuck out. At one of the local pubs a depressed-looking man decided to welcome the group.

"The lot of you must be new here, am I right?" asked the man.

"That is correct, sir," answered Suzanne.

"Probably came from Brecconaly, by the looks of you," observed the man. Though the four had grown quite a bit paler during their time in Alefgard they still were clearly not native-born Gardians. And anyone not native to Alefgard went through Brecconaly as some point.

"Well take it from me, you'd best flee from here as soon as you can," said the man. "You four look like you have some fight in you. The Master will find out about you and make an example out of you. And if there's any place where he's at his strongest, it's here."

"What do you mean, sir?" asked Suzanne.

"The Master has won some of its greatest victories here," replied the man. "They say it defeated the spirit Rubiss and sealed her in a tower to the west of here."

"Rubiss was what that man was talking about at Tantegel," said Alice. "The spirit that created Alefgard."

"So you've heard of Rubiss too?" asked the man. "I've heard lots of rumors about her. In every single one, Rubiss is incredibly powerful. And what good was it? Even she fell to the Master. And that wasn't its only victory here either."

"There was a battle here, some time ago," said the man. "King Rius, the father of our current king, brought a squad of his best troops here. He came personally at the head of this group. Their mission was secret but the people of Kol knew. He wanted to storm the tower to the west and free Rubiss."

"The Master didn't like that," continued the man. "It decided it would also make a personal appearance. King Rius was given the honor of fighting the Master. And for that honor the Master shattered the Sword of Kings, one of the few symbols of hope we had."

"Wait, that can't be right," said Alice. "We met with King Raosu! He had the Sword of Kings with him!"

"Did you ever see the sword?" asked the man. "The actual sword?"

"Come to think of it, he never took it out of the scabbard," noted Ron.

"That's because he couldn't," said the man. "The true Sword of Kings has been destroyed. And there are none in this land that can repair it. King Raosu hides this from the people to try and give them some glimmer of hope. But there is no use in hope here. The sword is gone. Wouldn't matter if it wasn't anyway. It clearly wasn't capable of bringing down the Master."

The four spoke with the man and several other people at the pub before leaving. What they had heard unnerved them. Many supported the man's story that the Sword of Kings had been destroyed. One older man claimed he had seen the sword shatter with his own eyes. Since it had happened in the small, isolated village of Kol only a few people had been able to spread the story to the rest of Alefgard. And it was easy to write off a few people as misinformed. Thus, the rest of Alefgard did not know of the sword's destruction.

"Do you think it's true?" asked Alice. "That the sword King Raosu showed us is either broken or fake?"

"It does make sense," said Thomas. "He showed us the scabbard but never took out the sword. Surely we all remember what it was like when we brought the Shield of Heroes to Brecconaly. If the sword is also capable of causing such inspiration I would think the king would have made a show of it to us."

"I don't know, we've seen a lot of leaders that are afraid of hope," said Ron. "He even told us to hide the shield. I say it'd be off if he had then showed the sword to us."

"He tasked us with finding the armor," said Suzanne. "I wouldn't think he would do so if our mission was already doomed by the sword's destruction. In any case, we'll have to ask him the next time we see him. Until then, we operate under the assumption that King Raosu still holds the true, intact Sword of Kings."

"What about Rubiss? Do you think she truly is sealed to the west?" asked Alice.

"I don't know," answered Suzanne. "If she is as powerful as we've heard she would be a great ally against Zoma. But we don't know for sure if she's sealed to the west and if she is we don't know how to unseal her."

"I could study the seal," offered Alice. "Perhaps I could come up with a way to undo it."

"You think you can undo a seal placed by the Master Archfiend?" asked Thomas.

"I can certainly try!" said Alice.

The four continued going through Kol finding what news and information they could. As they talked with the people they kept hearing references to an owner of one of the local shops. He was relatively new to Kol as well; the people said he had arrived about three years ago. They also said he was a master craftsman from Jipang in the upper world. The people that talked of him said they had never seen another craftsman of such skill. Curious, the four sought him out.

"Hello!" greeted the man. "How can I help you today?"

"We've heard from other people in Kol that you're a great craftsman," said Suzanne. "We also heard that you're originally from Jipang in the upper world. We were curious to meet you."

The man gave a chuckle. "All true. My name's Demik. You won't find a better craftsman than me no matter where you look, whether it be the upper world or Alefgard."

"If you don't mind us asking, how did you arrive in Alefgard?" asked Suzanne.

"Oh there was trouble in Jipang," answered Demik. "You see, Jipang has been terrorized by a vicious monster called the Orochi for some time. It made demands of my hometown that we sacrifice one young woman every so often to be fed to it. Terrible beast. My wife and I feared that she would be next."

"Well we have some good news for you," interjected Ron. "We defeated the Orochi and saved Jipang."

Demik raised an eyebrow. "Truly? You four random people saved Jipang?"

"It sounds pretty unbelievable, we know," said Suzanne. "The short version is that the Orochi was masquerading as Himiko."

Demik still looked unconvinced. "That's an awfully tall tale. Perhaps it would be better if I continued with my own story."

"We fled Jipang," continued Demik. "But then I made a mistake. You see, even a master craftsman needs good materials to do his work. I had heard there were excellent materials to be found in the Necrogond. So I took us there to search. Both my wife and I are skilled fighters as well so I thought we could handle it. Next thing we know, we were fleeing from monsters and fell into a strange hole. Then we ended up in Alefgard."

"That story sounds familiar," said Ron. "I heard a similar story from a woman in the upper world. She was from Jipang too. She said her husband, also a master craftsman, went on a journey searching for materials for his work."

Demik was noticeably surprised by Ron's story. "Really? Huh, imagine that. Small world. Or rather, small worlds I guess." He seemed to be quite nervous.

"Yeah," continued Ron. "She said her husband made my sword here. Heck of a guy if he made something like that."

"Do you mind if I see it?" asked Demik. Ron obliged and unsheathed the Sword of Thunder.

"Wow, I never thought I would see this again!" said Demik.

"Again?" asked Suzanne. "Did you know this other craftsman and this sword?"

Demik became nervous again. "Er, yes," he answered. "This other craftsman is me. I made this sword. I lost it as my wife and I were in the Necrogond."

"Wait, the woman who told me about this sword said her husband made it," said Ron.

"Yes," said Demik nervously. "That would be me."

"But you said you fled with your wife and that she's here now," said Alice, confused.

"All true," said Demik. "See, that woman you met was my wife at the time. Then I fled Jipang with my current wife. We got married later."

"So you abandoned your wife in Jipang to run off and marry another woman? And you didn't tell her any of this?" asked Alice. "She was quite upset when we saw her! She believes you're dead and grieves over you still!"

"Look, I didn't mean for that to happen!" protested Demik. "She was in no danger to the Orochi; she was too old. The Orochi was very particular on its sacrifices. But Yilady downstairs could have been its next target! I saved her life!" Despite his protests, Alice did not look appeased.

"Okay, listen," said Demik. "I might not have done the right thing. But please, don't get blabbing about it to everyone you know. In return, you can keep the Sword of Thunder. It's my finest work; you won't find a more impressive blade! In fact, if you were able to find it you may just have defeated the Orochi as you said. In thanks for that, if you find some good materials I'll make an even better sword for you! I bet you I could recreate the Sword of Kings that the locals here talk so much about!"

"That's a bold statement," said Suzanne. "How do you propose to do that?"

"It's simple," answered Demik confidently. "I did a little research on the sword. Sounds like in some places of Alefgard there is a rare metal named oricon. I've researched it and it seems better than anything to be found in the upper world. I'm sure the Sword of Kings must have been made of it. You get me some oricon and I'll make you a new Sword of Kings!"

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