Chapter 40: Rubiss
The very next day the heroes returned to the tower. Suzanne decided to don the Armor of Radiance for this trip. Like with the Shield of Heroes, she hid the Armor of Radiance under a cloak so as not to stir up the people of Kol. The four went to the Shadow Ferry and sailed west for the tower again. Thankfully, they did not meet any opposition on the sea.
When they reached the tower they found a welcoming party much like the one they had met on their first trip to the tower. However, the four were ready for them this time. The monsters had not changed their tactics much from last time. Again the group was greeted by a group of flying lion monsters who glided from the tower. Aware that they would be coming, the heroes unleashed their barrage of magic immediately after the lion monsters took flight. The lions never had a chance to unleash their own magic.
Having destroyed the first wave, the four did not take a moment to rest. They charged forward to the entrance, as they had the day before. This time after they made their way inside they found a group of the crimson shadow monsters waiting for them. Clearly, the monsters had adjusted their defenses a little bit. But the heroes were ready for the shadows too. Not taken off guard at all, the group eliminated the shadows quickly by sealing their magic and cutting into them. The shadows did not seem to even realize that their magic was useless as the four destroyed them.
The group had won quick entry into the tower yet they did not stay still. The four had studied Alice's map so that they would know exactly how to navigate to their destination. They worked their way through the tower at a good speed, not allowing the tower's defenses to find them and trap them.
Having fought the monsters in the tower the group was also quite effective in cutting their way through what resistance they did find. Suzanne's new armor was also of great help. She was able to move with even more agility with it than her old armor and yet the Armor of Radiance was even more effective at keeping her from harm. The armor even worked magic out of battle which slowly rejuvenated Suzanne and healed her wounds. When the group first noticed this Alice clearly wanted to stop to study the effect but Suzanne motioned to keep on the move. As long as they kept up their pace they would continue to do an excellent job of making their way through the opposition.
The heroes made their way to the break in the wall they had seen before. Alice cast a spell to slow the group's descent as they jumped. They landed in the walled off courtyard they had found. There was a door back into the tower right next to them. The path was quite straightforward from there. A small section of each floor was dedicated to this hidden area. To progress all the four had to do was walk forward to the next staircase. There were a few times where rotating floors blocked their path but the heroes had become adept at navigating these areas.
After some time the group arrived at the top floor of the tower. This area looked a bit different from the other floors. It looked as though the entire area had been covered, from top to bottom, in decorations at one point. Like the rest of the tower, these decorations had been defaced and destroyed in various ways. Most of the rest of the tower had basic brick on the floor but this floor was covered with what must have been beautiful rugs at one time.
As the four made their way around the four they were soon greeted by a group of monsters. These monsters looked like large lizards. Their bodies were covered with green scales and they crawled forward on four legs. They had long snouts and two horns each on their heads.
The group rallied into action. Thus far, they had been focusing on conserving their magic, especially since engaging in melee had been an effective tactic against most of their enemies in the tower. So the heroes used that strategy again and ran forward to fight these monsters up close.
Suzanne and Thomas paired up to fight one of the lizards. Suzanne met the creature head-on while Thomas worked his way to its side. The lizard tried to snap at Suzanne. Suzanne twisted aside to avoid the worst of the attack and her armor handled the rest. She counterattacked with a sweeping slash to its neck. The lizard was also able to avoid a direct hit but Suzanne's attack still cut it deep and also removed many scales from its side. Thomas took advantage of the opening and plunged his sword into the spot the scales had been removed from. The lizard died instantly.
Ron and Alice tried a similar tactic. Ron goaded one lizard into snapping at him. He took some cuts to his side from the creature's jaw. Alice was left alone to hit the monster's side. Her attack was not as effective as Suzanne's but even Alice's blow removed several scales. Growling in pain in rage, the lizard tried to turn around to attack Alice. This proved to be a bad move as it exposed itself to Ron who nearly cut it in half with one blow and finished it off with the next.
However, this attack pattern had left the other two lizards alone. Instead of leaping into melee the two remaining lizards breathed out gales of flame. The four were bathed in the fire. Their magic protective gear protected them from some of the fire but they still sustained serious burns. However, this was not enough to slow them down. They went to fighting their remaining foes as they had the first two. One lizard was able to release another blast of flame before dying. Other than that, they were taken care of with ease.
"First time seeing those things," noted Ron. "Good thing they couldn't handle very much, that breath of theirs was vicious."
"I think those were dragons," said Alice. "I read about them."
"Dragons?" asked Ron. "Those things couldn't even fly!"
"Do all dragons fly?" asked Alice. "Would you say the Orochi was a dragon? It didn't fly."
"Hmm, I don't know if I would call it a dragon," said Ron. "It was dragon-like."
"Well regardless of your thoughts, the Gardians classify those lizards as dragons," answered Alice. "Not unreasonable, considering their fearsome fire breath."
"Can we have this debate later?" asked Suzanne. "Let's keep on the move."
The heroes made their way to the south side of the tower. There they found an area that looked like a sort of inner sanctum. In the middle of this area was a large room guarded by a locked door. The Final Key took care of the lock and the four went inside. The room inside had been completely stripped of decoration. The rest of the tower had some banners left, albeit defaced, but this room had been made as plain as possible. Scraps of cloth left behind made it clear that something had once adorned the room before it had been torn to shreds.
At the back of the room was one decoration that was still intact. There stood a statue of a gorgeous woman. After the examining the rest of the room the group returned to the statue to examine it.
"Well, we've looked at everything on this floor," said Ron. "No sign of this Rubiss we keep hearing about."
"There has to be something around here," maintained Suzanne. "This room is definitely the most difficult place to get to in the tower. There has to be a reason they didn't keep the armor here."
"There's something up with this statue," said Alice.
"What do you mean?" asked Thomas.
"It is an amazing work of art," commented Ron. "But that's it."
"Alice has a point," said Suzanne. "Everything else in this room has been shredded, by the looks of it. Throughout the tower, all decorations and banners have been defaced in some way. But this statue alone is the only decoration that looks untouched."
"Plus, just look at it," said Alice. "Have you ever seen a statue so well crafted? So realistic. It's almost like—"
"It was once alive?" finished Ron. "You think this statue is tied to Rubiss somehow?"
"It could be," said Alice.
"Alright, Alice, use your magic to examine the statue," said Suzanne. "For the rest of us, let's focus on guarding the room from any monsters that may come by to check up on it."
Alice began her examination of the statue. It did not take her long to find something.
"Wow, there is a lot of power centered on this statue!" exclaimed Alice. "There is definitely something important here!"
Alice continued studying the statue. The other three had to beat back monsters a few times as she did her work. Alice made sure to work quickly as she knew they were in greater danger the longer they stayed.
"Remember what we found the last time we went to Giaga?" Alice asked after a time. "I'm finding something similar here. There is a magic signature here at work holding back some great power."
"So we're stuck then?" asked Thomas. "We still don't know how to undo these signatures."
"Correction!" said Alice excitedly. "We didn't know how to undo the seal on Giaga. That involved two opposing signatures somehow working in harmony. There is only one signature on this seal: one of malice and darkness. Back in Giaga that was the part that the Fairy Flute worked against."
"Are you suggesting we use the Fairy Flute now?" asked Suzanne.
"This is all a lot of theory for now," said Alice. "This seems very similar to what we saw in Giaga. But there are complicated forces at work here so I won't know for sure until I do a more thorough investigation."
"We don't have time for a thorough investigation," said Suzanne. "Who knows how long it is before everything in this tower organizes against us. Ron, try playing the Fairy Flute now. Let's see what happens."
Ron did as he was told. He took out the Fairy Flute and played a tune on it. As he played the statue began to glow. The effect startled him at first but then he continued playing. As his song went on the statue glowed brighter and brighter. By the end of his song the statue glowed so bright that none of the four were able to see.
Ron ended his song and the light gradually subsided. The statue had come alive and stone had been replaced with flesh and light. The woman's feet began to lift off the ground. She began to gently float just off the floor. She took a moment to examine her limbs, seemingly amazed that she could move them. Then she turned towards the four and spoke. However, she did not speak with sound. Much like Ramia, her words went directly into the minds of the group.
Ah! Spoked the woman. It's like a dream come true! You have broken the seal.
"Might you be Rubiss?" asked Suzanne.
Yes, I am the spirit Rubiss, who created this land of Alefgard, answered the woman.
"We have heard a lot about you," began Suzanne.
And I have seen a lot of your adventures, Suzanne, cut in Rubiss. Though I was sealed I was still able to watch what transpired throughout this land. It has been unbearable to watch the suffering of my people over such a long time.
"How long had you been sealed for?" asked Suzanne.
Since shortly after Zoma arrived in this world, answered Rubiss.
"'Arrived' in this world?" echoed Suzanne. "That makes it sound as though Zoma did not originate in Alefgard."
That is correct, replied Rubiss. Zoma originated in your world. He attempted to conquer your world and had intended to make your world into his dark domain.
"He tried to conquer our world?" echoed Suzanne. "That doesn't seem right. If something as powerful as Zoma was a threat to our world I'm sure it would be carried forward in our history."
"Unless…" began Alice. "I wonder if it's possible…" she trailed off.
"What are you thinking, Alice?" asked Suzanne.
"Not much is remembered from the First Great War," answered Alice. "We don't even know the name of the Master Archfiend who began that war. But we know this: no monster has dared assume the title of Master Archfiend since the First Great War. In both the Second Great War and against Baramos, they assumed the title of simply Archfiend. Why not call themselves the Master Archfiend if they were the most powerful monsters of the time? Could it be that Zoma was the threat that the great hero Simon fought against in the First Great War?"
You are correct, said Rubiss. The people of your world fought against Zoma long ago.
"But our histories say the Master Archfiend of the First Great War was destroyed by Simon's forces," said Suzanne.
"Histories and legends can become inaccurate over time," said Alice.
Indeed. Zoma was not destroyed by your hero, Simon. He was sealed away to this world, stated Rubiss.
"You know a lot about what happened in our world," observed Suzanne. "Have you been to our world before?"
I have not, answered Rubiss. I do not have the power to traverse the boundaries between worlds. But I have met with one that does. And from what I have seen of you four during your time here I suspect that you have met with this one.
"Could you be referring to the phoenix, Ramia?" asked Suzanne.
Indeed, said Rubiss. Ramia has the power to cross between worlds. She visited this land long ago, before the seal was put in place.
"Wasn't Ramia killed midway through the First Great War?" asked Thomas. "Before Zoma was defeated? You couldn't have found out about Zoma's defeat from her then."
You are correct, confirmed Rubiss. But Ramia taught me a great deal about your world and about Zoma. Further, I was able to study Ramia and even Zoma. Indeed, all I have been able to do for centuries now is wait and analyze. I am sure I know what it is that happened at the end of your First Great War.
"Please tell us," requested Suzanne.
There is a seal in place that keeps both Ramia and Zoma from crossing it, said Rubiss. The seal actually is bolstered by power drawn from both of them.
"We studied the seal a few days ago," said Alice. "We found out how it works. But I didn't realize it worked against Zoma too!"
Indeed, that was the seal's original purpose, said Rubiss. That it keeps Ramia from coming here is likely just a side-effect. I believe that before Ramia died she passed on some of her wisdom and power to your people. They used that to create the seal for Zoma. They would have had to engage Zoma in combat to capture the magical signature derived from its power.
"That would fit with how our history tells it," said Alice. "Our history says there was a terrible final battle against the Master Archfiend. Of course, our history says the Master Archfiend was destroyed but if Zoma was sealed away, presumably never to return, whoever penned it in probably figured it was destroyed, or didn't realize that Zoma had been sealed in the first place."
Rubiss continued her story, Though the seal on Zoma kept it from menacing your world it also had some consequences your people could not have expected. Zoma, like me, does not innately have the power to cross between worlds. However, the very seal that keeps it away from your world is derived from Ramia's power. Zoma itself has been able to use this power. Indeed, this is how it sends its minions into your world. I do not know the purpose for which it has done so, however.
"We do," said Thomas grimly. "One of its minions started the Second Great War, though that conflict was not as terrible as the First. And just recently we fought a terrible battle against Baramos, who we now know to be one of Zoma's underlings, that nearly could have ended in the defeat of humanity in our world."
I see, said Rubiss. I believe Zoma wishes above all else to return to your world and conquer it, to finish what it started. It is not content with its domination of Alefgard. And it seems to have no intentions towards the rest of the world that Alefgard inhabits.
"It suffered a defeat in our world by getting sealed," said Ron. "It must be itching for some payback after that."
Alice noticed something in what Rubiss had just said. "You say there is more to this world than Alefgard?"
Indeed, said Rubiss. From what Ramia had told me, all the nations of your world united in the fight against Zoma. Zoma must have realized how dangerous the united forces of humanity can be. Thus, to conquer Alefgard the first thing it did was isolate and seal Alefgard away. This way it could ravage the country with no outside interference.
"It has placed a similar emphasis on isolation in its tactics in our world," said Suzanne. "We only united the nations against Baramos in the nick of time."
Then Suzanne had another thought. "Rubiss, now that you are free, can you help us in the fight against Zoma?"
I will not be as much help as you would expect, replied Rubiss. Even when I was at full strength Zoma was able to defeat me. Since then it has stolen much of my power. I would not even be a challenge against it now.
However, there are still things I can do, continued Rubiss. First of all, I will give you this Sacred Amulet. Rubiss brought forth a beautiful amulet. The amulet was a circular medallion. The medallion was of fine gold and it had the same bird insignia on it that the Shield of Heroes and the Armor of Radiance did.
This Amulet will play a key role in the fight against the Master Archfiend, said Rubiss. I can also provide guidance to you on your quest and help rally my people to your cause. I have seen the seeds of hope planted throughout the land. It is time for that hope to blossom.
"Alright!" exclaimed Ron. "Will you speak with everyone? Help everyone to realize that it's time to fight?"
I fear I will not be as inspiring as you may think, said Rubiss. I have been unknown to my people for centuries now. The true hope will come from you four. Especially from you, Suzanne.
"Because of the equipment we keep finding?" guessed Suzanne.
Yes, answered Rubiss. Adorned from head to toe in Alefgard's legendary equipment, each piece decorated with the ancient symbol of this land, you shall be a symbol the people can look up to.
"We still have to acquire the Sword of Kings," said Suzanne. "And from what we heard in Kol, the Sword has been destroyed."
Perhaps it is time for you to speak with King Raosu, suggested Rubiss. There is much to discuss with him.
"That sounds like a good idea," said Suzanne. "We can get the truth from him and, if the Sword has been destroyed, begin arranging to make a replacement."
"Things are really looking up now!" said Ron. "Time to turn this world of darkness around!"
"We'd better leave soon before more monsters show up," said Suzanne. "Rubiss, what will you do? How will we be able to contact you?"
I must remain hidden from the Master Archfiend, answered Rubiss. But my eyes cover this entire land. I will be watching you and will appear to offer assistance when it is needed.
"Thank you, Rubiss," said Suzanne. "Well then, let us be off to Tantegel immediately."
There is one last thing you four should know, said Rubiss. And it is not easy for me to tell you.
"What is it, Rubiss?" asked Suzanne.
Zoma likely knows of your deeds, said Rubiss. And he knows that hope is starting to spring forth in Alefgard. Indeed, I believe it is planning on it.
"Why would it allow that?" asked Suzanne. "Allowing the people to rise up could only be a threat against it."
Zoma has been stuck behind the seal for centuries now, said Rubiss. It has tried to leech some of Ramia's power from the seal, and tried to use my power to bolster its efforts. So far nothing has worked to bring about its return to your world.
Zoma does not just enjoy the suffering of the people, continued Rubiss. It feeds off it. It grows more powerful as the people suffer more.
"So how could allowing people to gain hope again help it?" asked Ron. "Wouldn't that just make Zoma weaker?"
"It would at first," said Thomas. "But what if we lost? What if we rally the people of Alefgard to stand up against Zoma, bring everything we have and everything the people of this land have to its very doorstep, and are crushed? Besides the suffering of those who would be slain there would be massive depression among the survivors. If such an effort, likely the best chance at bringing down Zoma that has ever come about, were to fail then how could there be any trace of hope left in Alefgard?"
Thomas has it right, said Rubiss. That is what Zoma is counting on. It will likely allow the people to organize against it for now. But when the time for battle comes it will bring its full might against you. If it wins the suffering and depression of the people will be immense. So immense that it may give Zoma the power boost it needs to finally break through the seal.
"So by trying to inspire the people and fighting against Zoma we might just be playing into its hands," reflected Thomas. "In a way, it's like by being afraid to hope that the people were defending not only themselves but the seal as well. Without maintaining hope to be crushed, the people have kept Zoma's power at a status quo for ages now."
"We may fail but this is a chance we cannot pass up," said Suzanne confidently. "If Zoma gets its power from hopelessness and suffering then it will be at its weakest when the battle is to occur, when the people are filled with hope and confidence in their success. It is attempting a high risk, high reward strategy and I say we make that risk as great as possible."
What you said is true, said Rubiss. But do not underestimate the Master Archfiend. Even weakened as you said, it will be near invincible. It maintains a cloak of darkness that is near impossible to penetrate. To be honest, I have no idea how it can be defeated while so armored.
"Would this help at all?" asked Alice. She withdrew the Sphere of Light which the heroes had received from the Dragon Queen.
What is that? asked Rubiss.
"We received it from the Dragon Queen in our world, just before she died," said Suzanne. "She said that if we would do battle with the Master Archfiend we should take this Sphere of Light and bring peace to the land."
It houses extraordinary power, said Rubiss. I can sense it! This incredible light should be able to pierce Zoma's defenses! You must be sure to guard it well. Now, it is time that we leave this place.
"Very well," said Suzanne. "Back to Tantegel."
The four returned to Tantegel Castle and sought audience with King Raosu. Tracy was also called into the throne room. The heroes told the king of all that had transpired since their last meeting. They told him of the fear they had encountered in cities like Hauksness and Cantlin where people were afraid to hope. They told him of the return to work in Cantlin. They told the story of how they found the Armor of Radiance and unsealed Rubiss. King Raosu had Tracy examine the armor to verify.
"It is true, Your Majesty," said Tracy. "This is the Armor of Radiance."
"How amazing it is that you four have found not only the Shield of Heroes but the Armor of Radiance as well," commented King Raosu. "Are one of you able to use the Armor as well?"
"I am, Your Majesty," answered Suzanne.
"Extraordinary," said the king.
"If we may be so bold, Your Majesty, we have a question for you," said Suzanne.
"You may speak," answered King Raosu.
"In Kol we heard rumors of a secret mission that had been conducted by your father, King Rius," began Suzanne. "During that mission it is said that your father fought personally against Zoma. And in that fight Zoma destroyed the Sword of Kings, the very weapon that appears to be at your side right now. Is that true?"
Suzanne's question caused Tracy to gain a shocked look upon her face. The king sat back on his throne and closed his eyes for a time. There was a moment of silence in the throne room. Then the king reached down to the sword hanging on his belt. He withdrew the sword from its sheath. It was as the four had heard: the Sword of Kings had been sundered such that it looked like a magnificent dagger.
"Have you ever heard the tragedy of my line?" asked King Raosu.
At that, Tracy leaned forward to whisper something to the king. King Raosu waved her back. "It is alright, Tracy. They have done so much already. I feel they should know."
"It is said that the Master most enjoys playing with humans in positions of power," started the king. "It shows how powerless we are against it, that it can take those with the most power and torment them so. That is most certainly true with the members of my line."
"My family is cursed. Almost every child born in my family is stillborn. All except the first-born male, who can take the throne and continue the line. I imagine the Master finds it most amusing to keep my family on the throne. It could let my line end and allow the land to fall into anarchy. However, a little order and hope is useful to it. It is through hope that it brings about the most suffering."
"You heard of the excursion of my father," continued King Raosu. He held up the broken Sword of Kings as though it was the embodiment of some distant memory. "He did not go there for Rubiss's sake. No, he went for the slight chance that he might find something to put a stop to the curse. He went for the sake of his wife, my mother, that she might not have to bear with this horrible curse any longer. He went for the sake of giving me living siblings. He failed."
"It is for that reason that I have refused to take a wife. I could not bear to go through what my father did, and his father before him. I could not bear to put a woman through that. My line will end with me. I have no doubt that there are still fools out there that covet my throne. They are idiots. This throne is a chair of suffering. And the Master will ensure that whoever sits here will continue this cycle of misery."
Finally he looked up at the heroes. "Do you know how my father died?" he asked.
"We do not, Your Majesty," said Suzanne. "Was he slain by Zoma in that battle?"
"No, the Master spared him," said the king disdainfully. "He was too amusing a puppet. It allowed my father to carry on another fine tradition in our family. It is not easy to view the suffering of the people of this land and know full well that you are powerless to stop it. It is not easy to experience the misery in your own family and be completely helpless. No, the Master did not slay my father. My father was slain by his own hand. As was his father before him and his father before."
Suddenly, Rubiss's voice could be heard in the minds of all assembled in the hall. Raosu, I am deeply sorry for the terrible things that have happened to your family. The time has come to put an end to the one responsible for your family's ordeal.
The king reacted with alarm. "Who is this? Show yourself!"
Rubiss appeared in the middle of the throne room. King Raosu called for guards. Rubiss slowly glided towards the king, seemingly taking no notice of the guards approaching.
I am the spirit Rubiss, answered Rubiss. Creator of this land of Alefgard. I wish for this land to be free of the terrible darkness that has been cast upon it. However, we will need your help.
"Can it be true?" asked Tracy, almost breathless. "Is it really you, Rubiss?"
"What does it matter?" asked King Raosu. "Your own research has revealed that this Rubiss was defeated by the Master before. What can she possibly do now?"
It is true, said Rubiss. I can do little against Zoma now. That is why we need you, Raosu. Call upon the people of this land you need. The time has come for the people to stand together against their oppressor.
"So that we can be destroyed?" asked the king. "The Gardians are afraid to hope and with good reason. All hope here exists to be crushed."
"That's not true," interjected Suzanne. "We have seen hope survive even in this dark land. Even in Cantlin, where the city was in danger of falling into ruin due to depression, the people have gotten back up and dared to hope again! The same can happen across the realm!"
"And for what purpose?" asked King Raosu. "Even united, we cannot stand against the Master! This is what happens to those who try!" The king held up the sundered Sword of Kings for emphasis.
"For the purpose of finally freeing this land," replied Suzanne. "We are closer than you think. The tools for defeating Zoma are coming together. Behold!"
Suzanne withdrew the Sphere of Light and showed it to all assembled. As though it knew its own significance in this moment, the Sphere shined so brilliantly that the entire room was brightly illuminated. The king and his guards gazed in awe of the Sphere.
"Wha – What is this?" asked the king.
"The Sphere of Light," answered Suzanne. "A fitting weapon in the fight against the darkness, as you can see."
Suzanne set the Sphere of Light down and approached the king. She silently asked him for permission to hold the Sword of Kings. He obliged and handed over the broken blade.
"A defeat in the past does not guarantee defeat in the future," declared Suzanne. "Not as long as the defeated are willing to stand up and try again. Even this broken sword can be restored. We met a man in Kol who will be able to restore it."
"A smith capable of repairing the Sword of Kings?" asked the king. "I find that unlikely."
Ron stepped forward. He slowly withdrew the Sword of Thunder and held it for all to gaze on. "The guy made this sword I'm holding here. It's the most incredible weapon we've ever found, and we've seen quite a bit!"
"Everything is coming together," said Suzanne again. "But we need you, Your Majesty. We need the people of Alefgard. Will you take a chance? Will you endeavor to free these people from their long centuries of suffering?"
The king sat back on his throne, lost in thought for a few moments. He stared again at the Sphere of Light, still filling the room with its beautiful radiance. Then he finally turned and answered the heroes. "Very well. We shall take this chance you offer. My father would have jumped at a chance such as this."
Then the king motioned for Suzanne to come forward. He whispered into Suzanne's ear, "When we make our move I want to be on the front lines. If this endeavor dies I want to die with it."