The Hero of Legend

Chapter 41: Preparing A Rainbow

With the support of King Raosu the land of Alefgard soon saw a transformation. The first goal was to get the people to rise out of their sulking and be willing to fight the Master Archfiend. The king sent out public declarations throughout the land declaring that the time to fight had arrived and calling for the people to aid the effort however they were able. It was the most daring act of defiance made against the Master Archfiend for centuries.

There was some initial reluctance by the people to heed the king's call. Many expected that he would be horribly murdered right after sending out his declaration. Others suspected it was a trap concocted by the Master Archfiend. The king was patient. He continued to send out declarations in order to prove that he had not been struck down.

For their part, Suzanne and her friends teleported to the different cities of Alefgard they had visited. Instead of covering up the Armor of Radiance and the Shield of Heroes she proudly displayed them for all to see. Crowds began to form around her wherever they went. She looked like a proud warrior of Alefgard, covered in the land's treasured armor with the Gardian crest displayed openly. The heroes assured the people that the king's declarations were genuine and that they could make a difference in the fight to come.

Finally, the king himself made a tour around the land. He gathered some mages who had also been around the realm so that he could teleport safely from one location to the next. He kept a heavy guard around himself at all times. Nevertheless, seeing their king and hearing him speak so boldly again the Master Archfiend gave courage to the people. There were even reports that Rubiss had been heard speaking in some areas.

Once the people responded it was time to make preparations for the fight to come. It was decided early that Suzanne and her group would play a key role in the battles to come. Thus, efforts were made to aid them. The first task was to acquire the oricon they needed to give to Demik in Kol. Hauksness went to work immediately.

The strange man the four had met in Hauksness turned out to be right: oricon was found within the city limits. In fact, a vein was found inside a man's stable. He moved his horses to a different location as the digging progressed. Enough oricon was found there to repair the Sword of Kings. Once the oricon was dug up Suzanne and her friends took it to Kol immediately.

The heroes brought a cart of oricon directly to Demik's shop. Demik's shop was on the second floor of a restaurant and so the heroes ended up barging through in the middle of dinner. The people dining there were confused by the display at first. However, a few had heard about the efforts to find the oricon and they began to spread the word. Soon, the people there were excitedly whispering about what they were seeing.

The four paid them no attention for the time. When they reached the stairs leading up to Demik's shop they began to carry the oricon up using buckets. Demik was just in the middle of closing his shop when the group found him.

"Oh ho! What's all this?" asked Demik.

"You promised us that if you had oricon you could make a new Sword of Kings," answered Suzanne. "Are you ready to make good on that promise?"

"So this metal you have, is it truly oricon?" asked Demik.

"We brought the original sword too," said Suzanne. She set down some oricon and then dug the broken sword out of her pack. "Do you really think you can repair it?"

Demik studied the broken sword for a few moments. "Truly, this looks to have been as great a sword as they say it was. I can repair it. Or I could make a new sword, a sword that is yours. It would be every bit as great as the Sword of Kings."

"No, that's fine," declined Suzanne. "We came here to have the Sword of Kings repaired."

"Think about it for a moment, at least," said Demik. "I told you: I studied the Sword of Kings. I am aware that the sword chooses its wielder. And it can be quite particular. The magic that does that would most likely be stored within the portion of the sword you still have. This would mean, even though I would repair the sword, that I cannot guarantee you or anyone else you know would be able to wield it. However, if I create a new blade, I can make that guarantee."

"He brings up an excellent point, Susie," said Thomas. "What if neither you nor any of us can use the Sword of Kings?"

"Why wouldn't Susie be able to?" asked Ron. "She can already use the armor and the shield. Why not the sword?"

"I admit, it seems likely that she can use the Sword of Kings," conceded Thomas. "But as Demik says, there is no guarantee. Do we want to take that risk?"

"The Sword of Kings will not just serve as a weapon," said Suzanne. "It will also be a symbol. That proud bird symbol that is on the sword is the symbol of this land and it will be the symbol of the people's hope. A different sword, even a replica, will not do. The Sword of Kings will participate in the coming battle, whether it is in my hands, the king's hands, or someone else's."

Then Suzanne turned back to Demik. "Demik, I'm sure. Make the Sword of Kings whole again."

Demik went to work on the Sword of Kings. In the meantime, there were other preparations to be made for the attack on Charlock Castle. Rubiss, with her ability to see throughout the land of Alefgard, was invaluable for this.

"We know in the past that the defenders of Charlock were defeated when King Soren created a Rainbow Bridge to go over the rough waters surrounding the island," Suzanne had said during a planning meeting.

"We also met that man in Cantlin. In his visions he said we'd need the Stones of Sunlight, the Staff of Rain, and the Sacred Amulet to reach the Archfiend's island," chipped in Alice.

"And before he died, Bert told us the Rainbow Bridge was formed 'when sunlight and rain meet,'" continued Alice, now with a more somber tone. "It makes sense then that the Stones and the Staff would be involved."

"So all we need then is the Staff of Rain," concluded Suzanne.

I can help with that, said Rubiss. On the south side of Alefgard there are two shrines that will be of great aid to you in this endeavor. I can show you where they are.

"Excellent!" said Ron excitedly. "For once, it sounds like we're going to know where we're going!"

It will be a dangerous journey, warned Rubiss. You have seen how powerful Zoma's aquatic minions are. And it will take several days to reach these shrines. I will be unable to help you once you are on the waters. If I tried, Zoma would sense my presence. It would send a legion of its minions at you then.

"We'll have to make sure we're prepared then," replied Suzanne. "Okay everyone, let's get ready for the trip. We'll spend a day on the Shadow Ferry running drills, making sure we remember how to fight what we saw out there. We're not going to let ourselves get taken out just as Alefgard's hope is beginning to flourish."

Rubiss instructed the group to teleport to Hauksness. Cantlin was closer however it was some distance away from the sea and surrounded by mountains. Thus, it would have added some days traveling on land just to get back to the Shadow Ferry. From Hauksness, the heroes sailed around the southern end of Alefgard.

On the second day of the trip the group saw something very odd. The Shadow Ferry made it to the most southern point of Alefgard. Alice used a spell to illuminate their trip. She could even focus her light such that it lit up a cone going a great distance forward. At one point she pointed this cone to the south. However, it was Thomas who noticed the oddity.

"Is it me, or is the horizon much closer than usual?" asked Thomas.

The other three turned to look at what Thomas was speaking about.

"Yeah, you're right," said Ron. "I'm not any expert on sailing but the water ends much closer to us than I've ever seen it."

"It is dark out here," suggested Suzanne. "It's probably just difficult to tell."

"I don't think so," said Ron. "Alice's spell has reached the horizon before. I'm telling you, we're seeing the 'end' of that water a lot closer to us than we should be!"

"Should we sail over there to take a look?" asked Alice.

"I'm against that," declared Thomas. "We have a specific mission on this trip and with Rubiss's help we won't have to do much exploring. Investigating that horizon will only add unnecessary risk."

"Though I am also curious about this I must agree with Tom," said Suzanne. "We continue on our planned course."

As the Shadow Ferry continued the group met with some resistance. Fortunately, they had trained well in preparation. They even managed to stay in control of their fights against the tough orange and purple squids that had given them trouble on the trip to Kol. The heroes had learned how to better spot their enemies coming at them and prepared for the coming melee with spells to increase their fighting ability.

It took another two days after the discovery of the horizon before the Shadow Ferry reached the first shrine. The shrine was beautifully decorated with pictures and bannisters depicting rain and water. Some of the pictures showed plants flourishing in a nice shower while others showed people gathering to drink from a pond that was being replenished by rain.

"It doesn't look like this shrine has been defaced like the tower Rubiss was sealed in," noted Alice. "That must mean Zoma hasn't taken control of it yet!"

"Or it could be a trap," said Thomas. "Zoma might have known that if there were no obvious signs of a takeover that allies of Rubiss would then lower their guard."

"Wouldn't Rubiss have known if Zoma had taken over this shrine?" asked Ron. "She seems to be aware of everything that happens in Alefgard."

"You're probably right, Ron," said Suzanne. "However, let's keep our guards up, just in case."

The interior of the shrine was even more beautiful than its exterior. There were small streams and running water along the perimeter of the shrine. All around the water were gorgeous flowers of a variety of colors. There was an altar at the back with a large statue of a raindrop. The statue and decorations were crafted such that some of the shrine's water flowed through the raindrop. The shrine's only occupant was a woman with green hair garbed in a plain white robe. Curiously, the woman had transparent wings coming out of her back.

The woman reacted with alarm when she saw the four armed figures enter her shrine. Suzanne motioned for the others to stand down and tried to calm the woman down.

"Please, don't be afraid!" called Suzanne. "We are not your enemies! We are allies of Rubiss!"

The woman seemed unconvinced though she appeared to be less panicked. Suzanne slowly reached into her pouch and took out the Sacred Amulet.

"I present this as proof," said Suzanne.

The woman looked transfixed at the amulet. The fear seemed to leave her instantly and she stepped forward to inspect the amulet. Suzanne handed over the amulet.

"No agent of evil could ever get its hands on this amulet," said the woman. "Even Zoma itself could not bear to touch it. Tell me, how did you acquire this amulet?"

"Rubiss herself gave it to us," answered Suzanne.

The woman was shocked to hear that. She grabbed Suzanne's arm as she said, "Rubiss did!? So she has been freed!?"

"Yes," said Suzanne. "She wished that she could have visited this shrine herself, she told us. However, it is important that we acquire some items in order to fight Zoma. She said showing herself here would jeopardize that mission. So she sent us in her stead."

"You must be referring to the Staff of Rain," said the woman. "Hold on, I'll retrieve it for you."

The four waited patiently as the woman went back to the altar. She cast an unknown spell and the statue of the raindrop began to react. The water flowing through the raindrop increased and the altar it stood on opened. Water gushed out of the opening as though it was the water's force that caused the altar to open.

Inside the altar sat the Staff of Rain. The staff was blue with a black thundercloud at its head. The thundercloud had a few lightning bolts running through it. The woman picked up the staff and presented it to the heroes.

"I am the fairy spirit that once served Rubiss," said the woman. "I present you with this Staff of Rain. May fortune be with you!"

"Thank you, kind spirit," replied Suzanne. "I don't know how we can repay you."

"You already have," answered the spirit. "I had given up hope that Rubiss would ever be freed. With her free and guiding you, perhaps there is a chance that Zoma's hold over this land will finally be broken."

The next portion of the journey was much shorter. A day of sailing east of the spirit's shrine would take the heroes to their next destination: the Shrine of Honor, as Rubiss had called it.

There is a small island isolated on the southeastern side of Alefgard, Rubiss had said. The island is home to a very small order dedicated to my service. Incredibly, the order has survived over the centuries. This order is tasked with the creation of the Rainbow Drop.

"Great!" said Ron. "So we just have to take the Stones and the Staff to them and we'll finally have the Rainbow Drop!"

Do not forget the Sacred Amulet, cautioned Rubiss. The order is governed by a strict set of rules. Among those rules is one that says they shall not create a Rainbow Drop for any who have not proven their allegiance to me. Without the Amulet they will not aid you.

"So we just have to find this order and ask them for the Rainbow Drop?" asked Suzanne.

Most of the order is in hiding, said Rubiss. It is not necessary to reveal the location of the whole order. On this island is the Shrine of Honor. The shrine is attended to by one chosen by the order; one that is in charge of creating the Rainbow Drop. I will reveal the location of the shrine to you.

With Rubiss's instructions the four had no trouble finding the island and the Shrine of Honor. The shrine was adorned with many fine decorations of swords, shields, and warriors.

"Looks like my kind of shrine!" said Ron. "Think they could get a picture of me up there?"

"It's called the Shrine of Honor, Ron," replied Alice. "What honor do you have?"

"Hey now!" protested Ron. "I have plenty of honor!"

"I agree," said Thomas. "You play the flute most honorably. Perhaps they could put up a picture of you and your flute up there, next to all those big, strong, and heavily armed warriors."

The idea made Suzanne and Alice laugh. Even Ron had a grin. The four approached the shrine and went inside.

The interior was even more decorated than the outside of the building. There were many displays of actual weapons and armor, in addition to more pictures on the walls. The weapons and armor looked to have seen a great deal of action as every single piece had suffered great damage.

Several displays of armor had been set up around the middle of the shrine to create a de facto room. Inside this room was a stall, not unlike one would find for a shop. Sitting in the stall was an old man. His robes mirrored that of the shrine; every inch of his robes was decorated with pictures of weapons and warriors.

Suzanne pulled out the Sacred Amulet and held it up for the man to see as they approached. "Hello!" she greeted. "We are Suzanne, Ron, Thomas, and Alice. We come on behalf of Rubiss to request a Rainbow Drop."

The man broke out in a huge smile as soon as he saw the Sacred Amulet. "This is the Shrine of Honor," he said. "Welcome! Welcome! It would do me great honor to create a Rainbow Drop for the emissaries of Rubiss. Alas, I am afraid I do not have the materials to create the Rainbow Drop."

Alice took out the Staff of Rain while Ron withdrew the Stones of Sunlight. They put their items on the countertop of the stall.

Somehow, the man's smile became even wider. "Excellent! Stay here in my shrine for the night. By tomorrow morning I shall have a Rainbow Drop for you."

The four stayed in the shrine over the night. The man tending the shrine worked through the night and woke the group up the next morning. Despite his long night of work the man did not seem tired at all. Indeed, he seemed to have an extra burst of energy.

"Good morning! Good morning!" the man said excitedly. He eagerly waited for the heroes to get to their feet. He was sitting at his stall. When the four stood before him he withdrew a vial. Inside the vial was a beautiful rainbow-colored liquid. The colors in the liquid were constantly shifting and changing.

Suzanne stepped up to receive the vial. With some showmanship, the man gave the vial to her, "Now it is the time that sunshine and rain do meet. I give unto you this Rainbow Drop!"

"Thank you sir," answered Suzanne. "We will put your gift to great use."

The final part of the four's journey was to get to the city of Rimuldar. It was the last city in Alefgard the group had to visit that had a waypoint. Being able to teleport to Rimuldar would play a key part in the battle to come. However, there was some concern over the city. Rimuldar had become nearly impossible to reach from the rest of Alefgard and no word had been heard from Rimuldar in a few months. Some of the last known people who were able to teleport to Rimuldar had been killed by monsters.

It would take nearly a day of sailing to reach the east coast of Alefgard near Rimuldar. However, there were steep mountains that blocked Rimuldar to the east. The four would have to spend two days on land going through hills and forests to finally reach the city.

When the group arrived at Rimuldar they found what was likely the most beautiful city they had encountered in Alefgard. Rimuldar was in the middle of a lake with a land bridge leading to the city entrance. There were several beautiful streams and ponds within the city itself. As was the case with any settlement in the dark world Rimuldar was filled with lanterns and lamps. The lights reflected beautifully off the waters of Rimuldar.

As for the people of Rimuldar the morale of the city was a mix. Due to its isolation, Rimuldar was not privy to the arrangements being made throughout Alefgard. Thus, the four expected that Rimuldar's morale would be as low as many of the other Gardian settlements had been.

The group split up as they typically did when they arrived at a new city. Suzanne covered up the Armor of Radiance and the Shield of Heroes. They did not want the presence of those items known in Rimuldar. After a few hours among the people they regrouped at the local inn to speak.

"It's weird," said Ron. "We all expected the people here to be depressed since they didn't know about the offensive against Zoma. But some people here act like they know about it."

"I think I know why," said Alice. "Some of the people here have talked about a hero. Some guy who went by himself to Charlock Castle."

"By himself!?" exclaimed Suzanne. "That's suicide!"

"His supporters say that he's the most incredible fighter they've ever seen," said Alice. "Some believe he'll be able to sneak into Charlock and assassinate Zoma."

"Though some react like you did, Susie," chimed in Thomas. "Others say that, strong as he is, he doesn't stand a chance. Some believe he won't even make it to the island."

"That's right, did they say how he plans on getting to Charlock?" asked Suzanne. "We'll have the Rainbow Bridge. How else can a person make it to Charlock without drowning?"

Thomas and Alice shrugged at the question. "Alright, we have some time here. Let's find out more about this hero," said Suzanne.

The group stayed the night at the inn and then resumed their investigation of the mysterious hero. Rumors abounded about him but it was difficult to ascertain the true story. The man was not a regular of Rimuldar and had left the city shortly after his arrival.

"It's like people can't agree on anything about him," said a frustrated Ron as he walked around town with Alice.

"They agree on some things," remarked Alice. "All agree he was not a native Gardian. And I don't believe anyone said he was a woman."

"Even that's not true!" said Ron. "We met that one guy that swore this hero was actually a waitress from the local pub."

"That guy was almost passed out!" protested Alice. "We can't count on what he said!"

"It's still a point of disagreement," persisted Ron. "How can we count on what anyone here has said?"

"You need to work on your investigation skills," said Alice. "When enough reasonably trustworthy people agree on certain facts then we can believe those facts are true. In this case, we can be sure that the hero that left to fight the Archfiend was a non-Gardian man."

A young boy happened to be walking by as Alice said that. Overhearing the two's conversation, he decided to join in, "Are you guys talking about Ortega?"

The question hit Ron and Alice like a lightning bolt. Ron was the first to recover enough to respond, "What did you just say!?"

The boy was startled by Ron's sudden exclamation. "I-I-I just thought you were talking about Ortega."

Alice used a more gentle tone. "We didn't mean to startle you. It's just Ortega is a name we've heard before. You know of him?"

"Oh yeah!" said the boy, regaining his cheery demeanor. "He's great! He's going to go kill the Master!"

"Is he the one that left Rimuldar for Charlock?" asked Ron.

"Yeah!" said the boy excitedly. "I can bring you to my dad. He spoke with Ortega a few times!"

The boy led the stunned duo to a local pub. It was midday so the place was not filled to capacity though there were some that were already there. The boy walked up to a middle-aged man sitting at one of the tables with a couple other men. The man looked surprised to see his son approach with a couple strangers.

"Hey Dad!" called the boy. "These people want to hear about Ortega!"

One of the other men at the table scowled at what the boy said. "Jack, you have your boy spouting off this nonsense now? I tell you, the fool is already dead!"

Jack paid the other man no heed. "Newcomers to Rimuldar, huh? After months of no newcomers it seems that Rimuldar is drawing quite the crowd these days. So you heard about Ortega huh?"

"Yes," answered Alice. "We've heard a lot of rumors about Ortega. Your son said you talked with him."

"That I did," answered Jack. "I tried to talk him out of it. But he had such steely resolve…he was a person unlike one I've met."

"He was another fool!" cut in the other man, the same that had spoken up before. "Just like all non-Gardian warriors that fall down here! They come here and think they're tough enough to undo centuries of suffering!"

"You didn't speak with him," said Jack. "I've met some non-Gardians myself. Like you, I thought the lot of them were fools. But Ortega was different. I don't know what it was but something about him made me realize he's not a fool. He had incredible strength and fighting skill, far greater than any other I've seen. It wasn't just his fighting ability, though. His resolve wasn't arrogant like the others. It was just like…he knew it was a fact. No bragging, no chest-bumping, he just knew he could do it."

"You're as big a fool as he was!" declared the other man.

"Sir, how long ago did Ortega leave?" asked Alice.

"Only a couple days ago," answered Jack. "He didn't want to cause a stir with his departure. He left early in the morning before most of the city had awakened."

Ron and Alice talked with Jack and his friends for a little while longer. Then they left to try and find Thomas. The three found a quiet spot to talk amongst each other.

"Tom, we heard some news about the hero that was here recently," started Ron.

"You mean Ortega?" asked Thomas.

"You heard too?"

"He was treated at one of the local healing houses," explained Thomas. "He was roughed up when he made it here. Nobody's even been able to explain how he got here. Some think he swam here."

"Swam!?" exclaimed Ron. "How is that even possible? I don't know much about how Ortega fights but doesn't he wear armor?"

"I think so," said Alice.

"Guys, I think we have to keep this from Susie," said Ron.

"What!? How could you suggest such a thing!?" demanded Alice.

"Shhh! Don't yell so loud!" cautioned Ron. "Look, I feel terrible suggesting this. But we have a plan for going after Zoma. I think that plan gives us the best chance at success. If Susie hears that we're only a couple days behind her dad she might want to charge Charlock right away. That's not according to our plan."

"Ortega is likely already dead," commented Thomas.

"Tom!" hissed Alice.

"Let's face facts," said Thomas. "We've met nobody yet who knows how he would get to Charlock. He doesn't have a Rainbow Drop. We've heard the tales of the rough waters that surround the island."

"But if Ortega made it here, he could probably make it to Charlock!" persisted Alice.

"In which case he'll be alone right in the middle of the Archfiend's might," said Thomas.

"Well that's great, you two!" said Alice angrily. "Either let's lie to Susie or tell her her dad is already dead so it's not worth going after him!"

"Or neither," answered Thomas. "If we heard about Ortega it's likely that Susie did too. Even if that's not the case, I don't support keeping it from her. Let's see what her actual reaction is rather than continue to guess."

"Ugh, you're right," conceded Ron. "I'm being stupid. Let's go talk to Susie."

It took the three of them some time to find their leader. Suzanne was not at the inn and she was not at any of the local gathering places. The three had to split up to continue their search. Finally, Thomas found someone who had seen Suzanne wondering around. She was on the outskirts of town, walking alongside a stream.

Thomas approached Suzanne. "You heard, didn't you?" he asked.

Suzanne was so caught up in her reverie that it took her a moment to respond. Finally, she replied, "I heard that the hero that left here a couple days ago was my father."

"We heard the same," said Thomas. "Accounts of the hero vary quite a bit but we've been piecing together the stories that are common among a few people. It seems likely that your father was the hero."

Suzanne did not respond. Thomas took a guess at what was on her mind, "You're wondering if you should charge after him. Get him some reinforcements as he charges into Charlock."

Suzanne still did not speak. Thomas decided to continue, "It's an incredibly difficult choice. I suspect you know what my advice would be."

"You would tell me to stick to the plan we have," Suzanne replied. "Leave my father out there alone. That's what gives us the highest chance of success."

Thomas nodded. Suzanne turned to face him. "But he's my father, Tom! How am I supposed to just leave him out there!? I found out he's still alive after thinking he was dead for five years! He's my greatest role model! He's the reason we made it this far! He must've have known something that made him go alone. My father is not an idiot; he wouldn't go for Charlock if he didn't have a chance at success!"

Thomas listened quietly as Suzanne spoke. "If I go after him, I don't expect you or the others to come with me. I'll leave the Armor of Radiance and the Shield of Heroes behind for a true hero of Alefgard."

Thomas took a deep breath and then spoke again, "But I will go with you. And though I perhaps overstep my bounds in speaking for them, I suspect Ron and Alice would too."

Suzanne looked at him with surprise. Thomas continued, "You were only partially right in what you said before, that we made it this far due to your father. Your father is a great man. His journey gave you inspiration. He was a great role model and his example has guided you into becoming a great hero and leader."

"But as great as he is, he isn't the main reason we made it this far," said Thomas. "That would be you, Suzanne. You led us to this point. And along the way I imagine you made some decisions that your father wouldn't have."

"I wish he was here now," said Suzanne. "I wish he could tell me what I should do."

"It's unfortunate that he is not," replied Thomas. "But there is nothing we can do about that right now. You will have to make the decision, Suzanne. I will be with you, whatever you choose. I know I tend to take a negative view of things but there is one positive even I cannot deny: your leadership has never failed us. No matter what you choose, I will accept it as the right decision."

Suzanne was quiet again for a time. Finally, she replied, "Thank you, Tom. Could you leave me alone for a little while? I have to think about this."

Suzanne spent a couple hours thinking while the other three regrouped. Thomas found Ron and Alice and told them of his conversation with the group's leader. The three passed the time as they waited for Suzanne to return, preparing for the journey that they might soon have to take.

Suzanne walked into the room and addressed her friends, "Hey everyone. I know I've worried all of you."

"Think nothing of it, Susie," said Ron. "We know you're going through a lot right now."

"Tom told us what you two talked about," added Alice. "And he's right. We're with you, no matter what you decide."

"Thank you, all of you," said Suzanne. "That means a lot to me. You guys have put so much faith in me. That's why I've decided we're going to stick to our original plan."

"Really?" asked Ron, surprised. "Are you sure?"

"No," answered Suzanne frankly. "I've been going back and forth about it in my mind these past few hours. And I imagine I'll keep doing so. But the fact is that our plan gives us the best chance of taking down Zoma. If we go right now we'll be marching into the strength of our enemy with nothing to take the pressure off of us."

"What about your father?" asked Alice.

"I hope he succeeds," said Suzanne. "I hope by some miracle he takes Zoma down. Short of that, I hope that he doesn't put unnecessary risk on himself. He's an incredible fighter but he's smart too. He's not going to take on Zoma's whole force by himself. Maybe he'll have to stop his advance and we'll still end up catching up with him."

"That's some decision, Susie," said Ron. "But I think it's the right one."

"For our part, we did some more investigating," chimed in Alice. "There are some people that wanted us to bring you to them."

Alice brought the group back to the pub that the boy had brought them to earlier. Most of the same group of people were there. Jack, the boy's father, greeted them.

"So you're Ortega's daughter, huh?" Jack said. "I can see the resemblance."

"You told them who we are?" Suzanne asked to Alice.

"I'm sorry," said Alice. "We didn't know what you were going to decide. It just sort of slipped out."

"Don't worry, Suzanne," said Jack. "They also told us to keep this to ourselves. We're not going to broadcast who you are throughout the town."

"So you plan to go after your father?" asked Jack.

"At some point, yes," said Suzanne. "But we don't know what his plans are, why he felt he had to set out so soon. We have a plan of our own that we're going to follow."

"I see," said Jack. "I don't need to know the details. To know that there are people rising up against the Master after all these years…it's incredible. What can I do to help?"

"Unfortunately, secrecy is of the utmost importance right now," answered Suzanne. "We don't want it getting out that we are here. The best thing you can do is pretend like you never heard of us."

"I see. I wish I could do more," said Jack. "Though I have a friend who might be of some help. Borles, tell them what you know."

Jack motioned to another man gathered there. It was the same man who had chastised Jack earlier. He begrudgingly began to talk, "I still don't think you have a chance, no matter what your plan is. But I suppose doing something is better than just sitting around waiting for the Master to finally kill us."

"But before I tell you what I know, I need your own guarantee that you won't share my past with other people," said Borles. "Can you give me that?"

"We can," answered Suzanne.

Borles took a deep breath. "I used to work at Charlock. I was an agent of the Master's, a person who gathered information for him. I would work my way into the trust of people who were fortunate or who had a chance of rising against him. I'd provide the monsters with these details so they'd know how to strike at people."

Borles had to turn around at that moment. It was clear he could not bear to look at any of those assembled as he spoke of this. "At the time, I told myself it was what I needed to do to survive. As long as I cooperated the Master would leave me alone. What a fool I was."

"Anyway, during my work for that wretched beast I was taught to use a secret passage in Charlock," continued Borles. "On the same floor as the entrance is the throne room. Behind the throne is the passage. It's treacherous to get there; the monsters had to enchant me to levitate or I would have been fried. A few paces behind the throne is a section of the dangerous floor which is not active. It's very small, almost impossible to see if you don't know it's there. You can reach down in that spot and not be harmed by the floor. In that spot is a switch which will reveal a staircase going down. It is down through those passages that the Master resides."

"That is incredible information," said Suzanne. "You have our words that we will not share your past with others. Thank you for speaking to us."

Another man in the group stood up to speak then. "Ortega stayed at the inn I work at for a short time. When he left he decided to leave behind a magic ring. He said to leave it for some worthy hero. I believe he'd like nothing better than to have his own daughter take the ring."

"A magic ring?" asked Suzanne. "Do you know what the enchantment on it is?"

"He said that it heals its wearer while the wearer walks," answered the man.

"I wish he would have brought it with him then," said Suzanne. "He needs it more than I do, alone on that island. Hopefully I'll be able to find him so I can give it back to him."

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