Chapter 7: Rewards
Suzanne had definitely had enough of elven hospitality. After finding the Dream Ruby and the note left by Anne, the group had wasted no time in getting back to the elf queen. The team had assumed that the queen would let up on her punishment on Noaniels after being presented with evidence of the truth. The group was mistaken in their assumption.
After seeing the note and Ruby, the queen went into an incredible rage, even more terrible than the one she exhibited on the group the last time they visited. The queen went on and on about a human conspiracy and ordered the four put to sleep until she could think of an adequate punishment for both the team and the people of Noaniels.
When the team was brought out of their magical slumber, they found that Zelt had also been put to sleep. The team was informed that although the elves were sure of their guilt, they still were fair enough to examine the note and Ruby. In doing so, they found no evidence that the note was faked or enchanted in any way. Since an enchanted writer leaves magical trace of the enchantment on what he or she writes, this would also mean that the writer of the note was not enchanted.
After being assured that their names had been cleared, the group was asked to talk with the queen once more. The group braced themselves for another shouting match with royalty.
"Why!" the group heard the queen's anguished voice as they neared her room. "Why was I so hard on them!"
As the group entered, they found the queen crying on her throne. When they entered, the queen quickly composed herself and assumed her human-hating glare, though all four of them could see there was a little less venom in that glare.
"It would seem I was wrong about you and that other human," said the queen, her voice stern and formal. "We've run every test we can find and they all say that Anne truly wrote that note. The fact that you found and returned the Dream Ruby helps validate that Anne was not simply tricked through non-magical means. I will lift the curse on the human village of Noaniels." The queen's voice lost its edge now, "It's what Anne would have wanted."
The queen motioned for one of her elven attendants and the elf went over and handed a bag to the group. "This is Wake Up Powder," explained the queen. "All you need to do is turn the bag inside out and the powder will go forth on its own and cover a circular area of a five-mile radius. This should easily cover the village so long as you do not open the bag prematurely."
"Thank you, your Majesty," said Suzanne. She paused for a moment and then said, "We're sorry for your loss."
The queen's face flashed with anger, an expression the group was quite familiar with by now. "This does not mean I like or trust humans now!" she snapped at them. "Be gone from my sight! Take the older one with you too!"
The four left the queen's room and found Zelt at the same place they had first met him. The man was not the same stubborn man they had met before. The man appeared to be in the same condition as the queen: a great deal of grief.
"Oh, my poor son!" sobbed Zelt. "Why did it have to come to this? How did everything get so screwed up?"
Alice went up to the man and put an arm on his shoulder. "At least he found his true love," she said. "He couldn't have been too unhappy so long as he was with her."
Zelt's tears abated, though the man was still choked up. "Did the queen agree to take her curse off the village?"
"Yeah, she gave us what we need to reverse it," replied Alice. "We're going to escort you back to the village."
The man nodded his head. Without warning, he started to chuckle. "You know," he began, "Vince actually introduced me to Anne. Had her wearing this tight hat to cover up her ears. I was so relieved that boy was finally going to settle down. I didn't get angry 'till I found out she was an elf. To think, if not for some minor features none of this would have ever happened."
The group made the trip back to the village of Noaniels with little incident. As they were instructed, they took the bag of Wake Up Powder the elf queen gave them and turned it inside out. The powder left the bag as if taken up by a great wind and flew over a great distance, farther than any of the four could see. They watched as the villagers opened their eyes, looked around confused for a moment, and then went about their business again.
The group decided to have some chats with the people of the village, now that they were awake. All the villagers remembered going to sleep but did not remember the elves attacking. With both Zelt and Sam around to tell the village what happened, the villagers were quick to thank their saviors for their deeds. Suzanne was at the village eatery when she heard an interesting comment.
"You know miss, you remind me of this other traveler that was around here years ago," said a man at the eatery. "I swear, your eyes are just like his. He and his friends were going to talk with the elves about the Archfiend everyone's been whispering about.
Suzanne's eyes widened at the story. "What was his name?" she asked.
"Ortega," answered the man.
"That was my father! He was here?" Suzanne exclaimed.
"Well, isn't that a coincidence?" mused the man. "Yeah, he was here. He and his bunch were kind of like yours. Foreigners, but nice, helpful people."
"Why did he go to talk to the elves?" asked Suzanne.
"Said he wanted to patch relations between them and the empire. Said that we couldn't be parted against a common foe," explained the man.
Suzanne sighed, "I see he wasn't successful."
Suzanne steered the conversation away from the elves at this point. When the group had talked with the queen, their first objective was the village. If things went well, then they would have petitioned the elves to join those who stood against the Archfiend. But the elves were clearly not going to listen to the words of any human. The group had decided not to even try.
"Do you know where my father went after he left the village?" Suzanne asked the man.
"After being rejected by the elves I believe he went to the southeast side of the emperor. Apparently, he heard a rumor about a magic key in the trading town of Assaram. He didn't let things get him down, he didn't," the man replied.
Suzanne talked with the man some more and then departed for Zelt's house. When the group had escorted Zelt to his home, he invited the four to dinner and they decided to take him up on his offer after they talked with the villagers a bit.
"I wish I had an adequate reward for you," Zelt said as they sat at his table. "But I don't have much besides some coins. I'm sure the town would pitch in to get you guys a reward though, considering all you've done for us.
"We don't need any reward," said Suzanne. "It was enough just to get the truth out."
Zelt chuckled, "Well aren't you the humble bunch. Whatever you say, you should go visit our duke or maybe even the emperor himself. I'm sure you'll get a nice reward from them. I could write you a note so they don't think you're lying."
"Bru mod murmury," said Alice, her mouth full of food.
"I think she said, 'That's not necessary,'" translated Ron.
"I've never seen a young woman eat so much," laughed Zelt.
By this point, Alice had swallowed her food. "Hey, I need a lot of food to work my magic! Where do you think all my incredible power comes from?" she defended herself.
"That's funny, because Suzanne uses magic and she's finished eating. Thomas uses as much magic as you do and he ate the least," Ron said.
Alice sent a glare at Ron of such anger, he was worried he would turn to stone if he looked her in the eyes for too long.
Despite the group's objections, they could not stop Zelt from giving them the fee for a night at the inn. The next morning the innkeeper gave them a package sent from the whole village, inside of which was a green cloak and a note from Zelt.
The note read, "Well, we found it. Protest all you like, you're keeping it. This handy piece of clothing enhances the wearer's ability to dodge blows. It's called the cloak of evasion. It's got some magic in it, it does. Great for those that don't like heavy armor."
The group could not help but stop by Zelt's house to thank him and the village for the generous gift. Alice donned the cloak over her clothing. Then the group finally decided to teleport to the castle town of Romaly.
It was not difficult for the group to get another audience with the emperor. When the guards at the town gate saw them, they immediately shepherded them to the emperor's throne room. They found the ruler on his throne with the crown Kandar had stolen from his on his head and with a large smile on his face.
"Hail, great heroes!" he addressed them. "I have heard of your wonderful deeds! You'll be happy to know that the riots have stopped in the land Kandar usurped. A new duke has been appointed and peace and order have returned to the region. I also got your message about the village on the northern side of the empire. Might I ask what happened?"
The group explained the story of Noaniels and the elves to the emperor. The ruler was quite impressed with the story.
"So you saved the village without the use of force," the emperor recapped. "Your abilities, in diplomacy as much as in battle, are great. I don't know if I could have gotten the elves to lift their curse. I truly thank you."
"It was our pleasure, your Majesty," said Suzanne. "At the risk of sounding pushy, does this mean you will support us on our quest? Will you endorse us to other nations as we try to unite all against the Archfiend?"
The emperor's smile grew, "I will do better than that. Do you remember the reward I hinted at last we met? It is now time to give that reward."
The emperor got up off his throne. To the surprise of the group, he took his crown off his head and stood before Ron.
He turned his head to the side to address Suzanne, "Forgive me. Although you seem to be the leader of this group, I do not believe the Romalian Empire is ready for a female ruler, despite her deeds."
The group looked at the emperor in shock as he turned his attention to Ron and said, "Ron of Aliahan. I give to you the crown of the Romalian Empire along with the position of Emperor. Do you accept this great honor and responsibility?"
All four were speechless at first. Ron managed to ask, "Forgive me, your Highness, but is this a good idea? This isn't what we had in mind."
The emperor chuckled, "Not what you had in mind, I'm sure. This is far better. Think about it, one of your number, the ruler of a nation! Surely there is no better way to get that nation's support! I ask again: Ron of Aliahan, do you accept this great honor and responsibility?"
"It's been four days, and I still can't believe that idiot accepted the emperor's offer," grumbled Alice.
"While one has to question the former emperor's wisdom, how does that make Ron an idiot?" questioned Thomas. "What Vilisik said is right, how better to get a nation's support than for one of us to rule the nation?"
"But we don't need just one nation to stand against the Archfiend. If it were that easy, we would be done here. Now we're a man short on the rest of our journey," argued Alice.
Thomas decided to drop the argument. "Where's Susie?" he changed the topic.
"Talking to that his Numskullness, I think," replied Alice.
"Are you done playing around here?" asked Suzanne.
"Is that any way to address an emperor?" asked Ron.
Suzanne gave Ron an angry look and he replied, "Hey, I'm kidding, I'm kidding! Look, you gotta get me out of here!"
"Is that throne uncomfortable? Maybe you could make it law that all thrones will have an ample supply of pillows," countered Suzanne.
"Come on, Susie! It sucks being emperor! They won't let me out of the sight of the guards, and they won't let me practice fighting or go to the bar or anything!" Ron complained. "But I can't just step down or this place won't have a ruler. I have to name a successor."
"Fine, I'll find the old emperor and get him to take the throne back. Since this is really formal business, it'll probably help if I had a message from the emperor to prove I'm not trying to stage a coup or anything," said Suzanne.
"Thanks Susie, you're the best," thanked Ron.
Ron wrote an official message stating his wishes to give the throne back to Vilisik and Suzanne went off to find the man. She also got Thomas and Alice in on the search. Unfortunately, their search did not go well. They checked libraries, inns, shops, and just about every other public building they could think of, but there was no sign of the former emperor.
"Did you try the fight ring?" asked Ron, the next day when the rest of group told him of their lack of success.
"Why would he be at the fight ring?" asked Suzanne.
Ron shrugged, "Watching vicious monster fights and gambling. It's the first place I'd go after so many years of having to sit here all day."
"That's nice Ron but this man is an emperor," said Alice impatiently.
"Correction: used to be emperor," Thomas said.
"Whatever!" Alice yelled. "Point is, this guy has a bit more class than you do Ron."
"Then again, he certainly hasn't behaved like typical royalty so far," observed Suzanne.
Thomas nodded, "And Ron does make an interesting point. The man has led a very formal life for as long as he's been on the throne. I think anybody would be itching for some action when they got the chance."
The group adjourned from their audience with Emperor Ron and waited until nightfall, when the fight ring was at its busiest. The place was packed to see a big fight that was scheduled for the night. The three split up and searched for Vilisik. It was Alice who managed to find the man.
When Alice walked over to talk to the former emperor, he spoke to her first, "The common people have it good indeed! I never knew gambling was so much fun!"
"Your Majesty, I – " Alice began.
"You forget, I am no longer the emperor. You can call me Vilisik now," the former emperor replied.
"Vilisik," Alice began again, "You have to take your throne back. Susie has a note from Ron – "
"Emperor Ron, you mean," cut in Vilisik.
"Okay, Susie has a note from Emperor Ron saying he'll give the throne back to you," Alice said, getting frustrated.
"Bah, that's not necessary. He'll make a fine emperor." Vilisik replied.
Alice was very frustrated now. "He doesn't know the first thing about being a ruler!" she yelled at Vilisik.
Vilisik laughed, "He has plenty of advisors and supporters. They'll show him how it's done."
"But shouldn't somebody more experienced have the job? The people don't want to have to break in a new emperor!" Alice protested.
"I'm sure he's doing a fine job," Vilisik said. The ex-ruler began to walk away.
Alice grabbed Vilisik and spun him back around to face her. "But we can't have him on the throne! We need him to come with us and talk to all the people from all the other nations! We're a man down now without him!" Alice shouted at him.
"All it is with you is, 'But, but, but.' You can find another warrior to fill his spot. He'll be happy supporting you on the throne." Vilisik said, now getting frustrated himself.
"No he won't! He doesn't want to be emperor!" Alice said.
"Of course he does, why would he have accepted the position if he didn't want to be emperor?" Vilisik asked.
"He didn't know what it'd be like. And he thought it would really help us out. Truth is, he hates it there and we need him with us!" Alice explained.
Vilisik thought for a moment and then sighed. "Well I won't have him keep doing something he dislikes. I'll take the crown from him in the morning. Just let me see this fight tonight. A four-way battle: a poison toad, a giant caterpillar, a spiked hare, as we call them here, and a demon anteater! Everyone's betting on the caterpillar but I'm putting my money on the poison toad for the major upset!"
The three went to the inn for the night, satisfied that they would have Ron back soon. They were given a sudden wake up call in the morning.
"Thank you guys!" Ron shouted at the top of his lungs. Alice woke up so violently that she fell off the bed she was on and Suzanne bolted upright in her bed. Oddly enough, Thomas was unfazed by the noise, still sleeping soundly in his bed.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Ron exclaimed as he lifted Alice up and gave her a hug. Alice angrily shoved him back but Ron, unfazed, went on to hug Suzanne.
"If I had to sign one more paper or look over one more hare-brained law, I was going to go crazy!" Ron continued, now shaking Thomas awake and hugging him, only to be pushed away by him as well.
"Couldn't you have waited until we woke up?" Alice muttered grumpily.
"I've got too much energy pent up to allow that!" Ron replied.
Suzanne smiled at his energy. "It's good to have you back, Ron."
"A shame though. I think he was more useful on the throne," Thomas mumbled. Suzanne and Alice laughed.
"Hey! I'll have you know I've got some important information!" Ron said indignantly. "We may soon have another nation supporting our cause. The desert kingdom of Isis to south is an ally of the Romalian Empire. Emperor Vilisik gave me a message for the queen and said we should pay her a visit."
"Wait, for the queen?" asked Suzanne.
"Yeah, apparently Isis is ruled by a queen," explained Ron.
Suzanne could not help but smile. "A human nation ruled by a queen. It'll be nice to be in a nation without sexism that isn't angry at us for no reason."
Alice laughed, "You must have been pissed when the emperor told you that you couldn't rule because you're female! You probably wanted the job!"
"No, it wasn't like that. Though, I was a bit surprised he said that to me at all. Ron is the leader of the group after all," Suzanne said.
The rest of the group gave her funny looks. "Um, you do realize that's not true, right?" said Ron. "You've been running this group since before we got to the empire."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be so pushy," apologized Suzanne.
The rest of the group shook their heads. "No, no, no, you deserve to be leader Susie!" Ron said. "You definitely know more about battle tactics than I do. Remember our fight against Kandar? We probably would have lost without you directing us!"
"Yeah, and you're a lot better at talking with important people than we are," said Alice. "Plus, this guy here only leads us into ambushes!"
"That happened one time! Susie has led us into ambushes too!" Ron protested.
"Yeah but those were because of cleverness on our opponents' parts. You were just being dumb!" Alice shot back.
As the two began to bicker, Suzanne turned to Thomas, "You don't mind me being leader, do you?"
"Not at all. You're definitely the best for the job," Thomas said. "Though you need some work on keeping the group from infighting, by the looks of it."
Suzanne and Thomas both laughed as Alice started running after Ron trying to hit him. "I'm not a miracle worker," said Suzanne.