- I do not, nor have I ever, owned the rights to the video game, 'King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne', or its licensed fan-made remake, 'Romancing the Stones', from which this fan fiction is based. To my legal knowledge, the games, and their content, though mostly out of print (in its original, physical form), are both, to this day, legally owned by their respective owners: Roberta Williams, Sierra On-Line, and AGD Interactive. All other properties, not in the public domain, (and were not somehow included in either of the original source material,) that are mentioned in this fan fiction rightfully belong to their individual copyright holders and are mentioned entirely for referential purposes. My sincerest advance apologies are offered to any and all copyright holders if credit for their individual properties contained herein were erroneously overlooked.
- 'The King's Quest: Romancing the Stones' is a work of complete fiction. Names, characters, places, and situations are products of either the original staff's imagination or that of my own. Any similarity to any actual events, locations, and/or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
- The views expressed in this fan fiction do not necessarily represent the overall views of the author.
- This NOT FOR PROFIT fan fiction is NOT for sale, rent or auction in any form or fashion, either by physical or electronic means, for monetary gain. It was produced solely for the (hopeful) enjoyment of the series' numerous fans worldwide, as a personal exercise in the art of professional writing, and for the private, personal use of the author, and by no means intends to infringe on the rights of the respective copyright holders.
- Special thanks to YouTubers 'GameHorder' and 'ravencrest1985', for whose individual video walkthroughs helped me out with the more... difficult areas of the game.
Once upon a time, in the far, far away land of Daventry - a beautiful realm that has since fallen on hard times - Sir Graham, the kingdom's bravest and most honorable, noble and resourceful knight, was summoned before the throne of the aged King Edward the Benevolent.
"I am at your service, my king." Sir Graham pledges, kneeling before the throne.
Gestured to rise, King Edward takes Sir Graham aside.
"I am an old man, Sir Graham." he says, with a noticeably great strain, "Perhaps I am too old to carry the weight of this crown. My bones ache, and my hands tremble. I am afraid that my time on earth grows short." Though this fact is obvious to his people, it failed to take away the collective despair that King Edward's people feel over his impending death.
"But enough about me." The aged ruler continues, "Great misfortunes have befallen Daventry since the loss of three magical items, so many years ago." Coughing, the king continues, "I have chosen you, my finest knight in all of Daventry, to search for these treasures. Only then, can this kingdom be restored to its former glory. And only then, may I rest in peace with the knowledge that my people are safe."
The treasures: a magic mirror capable of foretelling the future, a shield that protects its bearer from any and all mortal harm, and an enchanted chest filled with an unlimited supply of wealth, have indeed been missing from their rightful place in Daventry for so many years. Yet Sir Graham was chosen above all others by His Highness to perform this dangerous, nearly impossible quest. However, Graham was King Edward's most resourceful knight with the most pure of heart, so the king did not have to think twice in considering him for this perilous quest.
Sent out, Sir Graham, following his late father's sage advice - "When in doubt, or in trouble, pick up anything that is not nailed down, or if it is, check for loose nails or boards. Check carefully into, under, above, below, and behind things. Read everything for you might learn something. Wear clean undergarments, brush after meals, and always remember that nothing is as it appears." - he searched the kingdom of Daventry high and low for these missing items, helping those in need along the way; skillfully obtaining the magic mirror from the clutches of a sleeping fire breathing dragon from the depths of its underwater cave, whose flame was doused by a mere bucket of water; from climbing a gigantic beanstalk into a land above the clouds, defeating a fifty-foot tall giant with a mere stone and slingshot, securing the magic chest; to using a mere four-leaf clover to convince a clan of leprechauns to simply hand over the magic shield. However, the jig he played on the violin he was given by a poor woodcutter and his wife for providing them with a hearty meal did not hurt matters either. He even rid the kingdom of a nasty troll (thanks to an ornery, yet carrot hungry Billy Goat) that was charging an outrageous fee that was often next to impossible for anyone to pay, so people could cross his bridge; as well as killing an evil witch who enjoyed feasting on the children of Daventry by luring them to their doom with her house made of gingerbread and various assortment of other candies.
Returning to Castle Daventry with but less than a few minutes to spare, King Edward's last few breaths were peaceful, knowing that Sir Graham had successfully fulfilled his quest, returning the treasures to Daventry once more. With no remaining heirs of his own, (his only child was stillborn, allowing a plague that swept through Daventry to claim his beloved wife, (who was already in poor health due to her unsuccessful pregnancy) along with both Sir Graham's parents, whom were among the realm's countless others who died while the lethal pestilence hung in the air.) King Edward handed the crown over to Sir Graham, making him the new King of Daventry, effective the second King Edward the Benevolent passed away. His last words were calling out the name of his late wife Maylie with anticipation of finally being reunited with the love of his life after spending so much time apart...
During the next few months while under King Graham's rule, Daventry began to prosper once more as he was accepted with open arms as the peoples' new ruler. However...
...an older gentleman, dressed in blue and wearing a red cape, approaches the castle's main gate. The two attending guards instinctively raise the portcullis with a highly respectful salute; the man only nods at the two guards, both of them are obviously his subordinates, as he passes through on his way to the throne room.
Entering, the man approaches King Graham, who is once again in a state of deep thought, unaware of the other man's presence in his throne room.
"Your Majesty." The other gentleman says, although failing to stir the younger king from his 'trance', "Um... King Graham?"
"Oh!" King Graham says, finally realizing what was going on around him, "Yes, Minister... um..." the king gestures for the man standing in front of his throne to help him out.
"Gervain, Sire..." Minister Gervain replies, politely aiding the king with his lapse of memory.
"Of course. My apologies, Gervain."
"Not necessary, Your Majesty." Gervain says understandingly, quickly forgiving his 'employer' for not remembering his name. "After all, I have been secretary of defense minister for but a short while."
"Yes. Where did you say you were from again?" Graham asks.
"Just some small, insignificant land to the far south." He replies, "It pales greatly in comparison to your realm, My Lord."
"Ah..." the king replies, "Do you have something to report?"
"As a matter of fact, My Liege, there is a small concern regarding the duty shifts of some of the castle guards, and of the countryside patrols." Gervain informs Graham, as he sits back in his throne to listen. "Also, we are expecting our armed entourage from our nearest neighbor to return within the week. And there is the matter of an alliance with..." That is when Gervain notices Graham slipping off again, "...My Liege?"
Snapping out of his train of thought yet again, the King is pretty embarrassed at being caught daydreaming. "My apologies again, Minister Gervain. Please continue."
"Yes." Gervain begins again, clearing his throat, "As I was saying, there is the matter of an alliance with Eusperia. They have become a strong nation now, and it may be prudent to show our willingness to support them... lest they decide we are more of a hindrance than a help."
"Does the king there have any daughters who have come of age?" King Graham asks, hoping for that type of alliance between the two nations of Eusperia and Daventry. However, his hopes are short lived.
"Uh... I do not believe so, Sire." Gervain informs his King, getting a despaired sigh from King Graham, before being motioned to carry on with what he has to say. "As for the security arrangements for the royal ball held last week, I do believe the evening went by very smoothly. I dare say that just about every princess in the region attended, and not one lost slipper, to coin a phrase."
Cringing, King Graham replies, "Please... do not remind me."
"Indeed. They were none too fetching." Gervain continues, "Would you like me to go over your plans for today, My Lord?" Again, being gestured to do so, Gervain continues further. "Very well."
"Hmm?" King Graham mumbles, still uninterested. Then, catching himself from the realm of personal thought once more, "Oh. Forgive me once again. I am afraid that my mind wanders much these days. sigh I wonder if my predecessor experienced times like these."
"No doubt." Gervain replies, "Though I did not know King Edward the Benevolent personally, I understand that he was a happy and astute man during his married life. Before his wife passed away, that is."
With that being said, King Graham grows slightly depressed by Minister Gervain's observations.
"If I may be so bold," Gervain continues, "perhaps My Lord if feeling that certain rooms in this castle are somewhat sparsely filled? The throne room, for example."
The king looks up at the minister, though his head and body posture do not move, the king's eyes warn Gervain that he is dangerously threading on thin ice. However, the minister continues...
"And other rooms that serve but a single soul, like your dining room..." Gervain continues, "...and your bed chambers."
Abruptly rising, Gervain cowers, before King Graham resumes his seat, realizing that Minister Gervain is actually right.
"chuckling Perhaps." King Graham replies, "But I do fear that I have met no such candidates that would... fill... the rooms you have mentioned."
"You should not lose heart, Your Majesty. If you pause to reflect for but a moment, you may see clearly what is hidden to others." Gervain says, before leaving.
Sinking back into his throne, Graham sees, out of the corner of his left eye, the magic mirror that he had obtained some time earlier. Getting up, he notices the glass beginning to shine - a sign Graham has learned since taking the throne that the mirror had something to show him, and it has never misguided him so far...
Gazing into the mirror, the minister's words echo in King Graham's head.
"If you pause to reflect for but a moment..."
Not that he has been doing much else, lately. For the past many weeks, King Graham has been doing quite a bit of reflecting over the direction his life has been taking. True, Daventry has prospered under his wise leadership; but so far his existence has been a dreadfully lonely one.
Suddenly, the mirror's face changes; as King Graham watches, he sees a series of images, though he struggles to fathom their meaning. From what he could make out, he recognizes the sandy beaches of Kolyma, a land not too far from Daventry. From its shores, he is shown a stone panel, with three round sockets, each forming a triangle of sorts, shining a sequence of flashing blue, green and red lights, before revealing a passage to a sky high stone tower, concealing the most beautiful woman Graham has ever laid eyes upon. Somehow, he could actually feel her sorrow, and her overwhelming desire to leave the dreadful tower that holds her prisoner.
As the images fade, King Graham is pulled back to consciousness...
"Did you find what you were looking for, Sire?" a voice from behind King Graham asks; he recognizes it to be Minister Gervain.
Turing to face him, the king replies, "I require my ship ready for transport, Gervain. I shall be going on a trip, presently."
"Indeed. Where shall I tell the captain you will be heading?"
"To Kolyma. I have to find someone."
"I see. Well, if you must go, it is my duty to ensure that you leave prepared. Arm yourself, Sire. I hear Kolyma is not the safe haven it once was."
"Of course." King Graham replies, crossing back to his throne, "I shall take the sword of the First King, as if my right."
"A wise precaution, Sire." Gervain replies, "And, uh, if I may be so brash to ask... who might you be seeking?"
Placing a hand on Minister Gervain's shoulder, King Graham replies, with great hope, "If all goes well... my bride."
As Minister Gervain leaves to make the preparations, King Graham draws the sacred weapon from the pedestal from which it laid, sheathing the sword into a specially designed leather loop scabbard on his belt; one that was designed for a quick draw, if necessary, while taking off the sacred crown from his head, he replaces it with the feathered cap he has not worn since he was a mere knight, as he sets off for the journey of a lifetime.
...MEANWHILE, IN KOLYMA...
Deep inside a cave just outside of Kolyma's Wierwood Forest, where only the bravest of souls or the most careless of fools dare to thread, an old, ugly, wicked witch resides. Though she is busy concocting her latest brew, her magic crystal ball lights up, casting a dark green hue over the otherwise dark cave; and with great haste, she drops what she is doing and focuses on the picture of the one who is attempting to contact her - a man cloaked in a black, heavy shroud, although no more of his features could be distinguished.
"Father?" she greets the unknown entity.
"Sister Hagatha..." the entity greets his servant with a low, unearthly, and some would say, demonic voice.
"How may I be of service?"
"An opportunity has arisen, sister. I trust you still have your captive held securely away?"
"Of course." Hagatha replies, smiling.
"A bit cruel, keeping her locked away like that. Do you not think?"
"No." Hagatha replies, with an air of utter hatred for her captive, yet with enough pleasure in the fact that she has her SAFELY hidden away, "How dare she flaunt her beauty in front of all to see! Her foolish male admirers see her and forget that I was the most beautiful of all in my day!"
"And in your own special way, you are STILL beautiful." The Father replies, almost flirting with the old witch.
"Cackling Oh, you devil."
"That is not an unfair description."
"Now... you mentioned a service, I believe."
"Yes. The King of Daventry has advised his faithful minister that he shall be departing for Kolyma presently. On a quest, you might say."
"Really? What kind?"
"The kind that involves sticking his neck out to rescue a damsel in distress."
"And what have I to do with his neck?" Hagatha asks, hopeful for the possible answer.
"Put simply, my dear - SEVER IT!" the Father replies, as his image begins to fade, leaving a smiling witch behind, her mind already pondering the possibilities...
...THE NEXT DAY...
A day's journey by sea from Daventry finds King Graham on the sandy shores of Kolyma, where his ship, the Granthithor, and its crew deposit the young king, with plans to return the day after tomorrow. Hopefully, this window will give him just enough time to locate and release the imprisoned woman he saw in the magic mirror.
As the pride of Daventry's naval fleet casts off, Graham notices an abandoned fishing net stuck to the edge of the pier, just floating in the water. Past experience telling him that such seemingly meaningless objects may prove useful, he waits until the Granthithor is but a speck on the horizon, as he leaves the pier for the sandy beach, wading out into the water, swimming to the front of the pier's support beams, he untangles the net from the pylon, taking it with him, before he swims back to shore.
From the beach, he heads north, retrieving a fallen fence picket, which still feels reasonably sturdy to the touch and is rather pointed at one end, and taking it with him, feeling that it may be of some use to him later on, carrying it with him as he continues up north along the beach's edge, eventually leading him towards a meadow near the forest's edge, where he spies a seemingly lost little girl, who could not have been more than six years of age, wearing a crimson red hood and cloak.
"Hello." The girl asks, being the first to notice King Graham, "Who are you?"
"My name is Graham." The king replies, withholding his royal title for reasons known only to himself. "What is your name?"
"Possum." The little girl replies, "That is what my grandma calls me. She is not at all well these days. I was collecting flowers for her, but now I cannot anymore."
"Why is that?"
"My basket is missing. I have looked everywhere for it. It must be around here somewhere!"
"I will keep my eye out for it." Graham promises little Possum.
"Thank you, Graham." She replies.
"I was wondering, could you tell me anything about this land?" Graham asks.
"You mean Kolyma?" she asks, "There is a town to the northeast, and a church not far south of that. Grandma and I live in a house near the beach." She explains, "You should not enter the swamp to the north; it is said to be influenced by magic. Many have easily lost their way in there, and finding your way out again is difficult."
"Thank you, Possum."
Heading back south, after the girl continues looking for her lost basket, Graham passes by a small pond once entering the forest, where a young, yet slightly... UGLY duckling swims. Wading into the pond, being careful as to not startle the little thing, Graham readies the small net he found near the beach. Stealthily, Graham throws the net over the duckling, harmlessly capturing it, much to the duckling's distress.
Doing all he can to sooth it, Graham eventually succeeds in quieting the baby bird's squawking and thrashing. Still, Graham's curious as to why the mother is nowhere to be seen...
Continuing east from the lake, Graham spies a lemon tree, with an abundant cache of fresh lemons ready to be picked, even though there were even more that have spoiled, littering the ground. Reaching into the tree's leaves, Graham picks the largest, juiciest lemon he can find. Saving it, he continues along the gravel forest road, taking its path, eventually leading him into that nearby town Possum was speaking of.
Along the way, though, just before reaching the town, all the while enjoying the scenery as best he could, Graham notices a sizable hole in one of the trees. Peering into it, Graham finds an abandoned mallet, which he gladly takes with him, adding to his already growing arsenal of makeshift tools. (As long as the property was abandoned, it is not legally considered theft if he takes it...)
Approaching the gates, Graham hears something coming from a nearby haystack.
"Hey!" a voice cries out.
"What?" Graham asks, stopping his tracks, looking around for the source of the noise, "Who said that?"
"I did!" the voice replied.
"I am down here... in the hay!"
Walking over to the haystack, King Graham finds someone, or something speaking to him.
"Oh! Who are you?" Graham asks.
"My name is... er... um..." the stranger mumbles, struggling.
"Hmmm... I cannot seem to remember. ACHOO!"
"Well, then... WHAT are you?"
"Oh, I am a... um... ah..."
"Hmmm... I cannot seem to remember that either."
"Well, what are you doing in this haystack?" King Graham asks, struggling to keep hold of his ever fading patience with the strange creature.
"That is easy!" the creature replies, "I was looking for... oh... um..."
"You cannot remember?" King Graham replies, beating the creature to the punch.
"No..." the creature sheepishly replies, "...sorry. ACHOO!"
"How long have you been in there?"
"Let me see... it could not have been any longer than... ah..."
"Three, maybe four weeks."
"Weeks?" King Graham asks, hardly believing what he was hearing.
"Pardon me for saying," Graham says, "but you sound as if you have a bit of a cold."
"Yes." The creature replies, "It is all of this hay! It has giving me hay fever. ACHOO!"
Leaving, King Graham regrets that he could not help this poor creature out... YET. Still, entering the gates, he hears one last sneeze before the sight of a busy midday town overcomes him.
While not the most bustling of activity is going on, King Graham notices a man hunched over a fountain in the town square, who appears to be trying to retrieve something from it.
"Aha! Got 'em!" Graham hears the seemingly unsavory character mutter under his breath, as he returns to his stall. Curious, King Graham decides to investigate.
"Greetings, merchant." He says, appearing interested in buying some of his wares.
"Ahhh... to you, good day." The merchant replies, in a completely different accent than before. However, it is something in the merchant's possession that peaks Graham's interest.
"Mama!" he hears, as if coming from a little girl's baby doll, however there is no such item in the merchant's possession. Other than a small pumpkin, there is hardly much this man has to sell.
Stranger still, the merchant shushes whatever it was that made the sound.
"A visitor arrived new, no? A sense I possess, for these things." The shifty merchant continues with his foreigner act, "Need you have, for my wares of great specialty?"
"Perhaps." Graham replies, "But first, I am curious... where did you come by such a pumpkin?"
"Eyes quite keen, have you. Indeed, a specimen unique, it is."
"Mama! Me want Mama!" the pumpkin continues to plead.
"Be quiet!" the man sneers at the fruit under his breath, somehow losing his accent in the process. Then, resuming his act, "The gift of speech, among plants so rare, yes?"
"Quite so. Are you planning to sell it?"
"Sell?" the merchant replies, somewhat surprised, "Never, would I sell a thing such as this..." then losing his accent yet again, "...It will make me incredibly ri-" then, catching himself, "...er, I mean... entrusted, it was, to my care. Watch over it, I must."
"Mama! Take me back to my Mama!" the pumpkin demands.
"Forget it!" the merchant responds, returning to his normal voice, "I am not taking you back to that patch, so pipe down!"
"Pardon?" Graham asks.
"Ah..." the merchant continues his attempted con, "...of importance, I speak not. Trouble to your ears, I meant none."
Seeing that he could not get any further with this charlatan, Graham leaves him for now. Walking around town, he lets two unaware guardsmen pass by on their daily rounds.
At the door of an empty residence, recently foreclosed, while being careful no one is around to see what crime he is committing, King Graham uses the fence picket to draw out a letter from underneath the locked door - a letter addressed to the house's former resident.
Breaking the seal, Graham reads the letter contained therein...
Please find enclosed the library membership card to which you are now entitled. The five-year application process has concluded, and we are pleased to inform you that your status as a member of the town library is confirmed.
Welcome to an exclusive group of patrons!
PS: Please sign your name on the card to ensure validation.
Convenient, some would say, that the town library is located next door to the foreclosed residence. Entering, he notices an older lady sitting behind the deck in a dark room, lit only by a lone candle, with the ticking of a grandfather clock the only sound being heard. While the librarian looks away, Graham quickly grabs a quill pen from the desk, signing his name on the black library card; replacing the pen before the librarian notices that it was missing.
"Will you accept this?" Graham asks, showing the librarian his card.
"Yes." The librarian replies, snapping back in a shrill voice, "You are younger than I expected." She adds, looking Graham over.
"Um... I eat well. And get a lot of exercise." Graham replies, scraping the bottom of the barrel for a believable excuse.
"I see." The librarian replies, believing Graham's excuse.
"So... what do I do now?"
"You mean I can take books from the library?"
"No." the librarian snaps back.
"Oh..." Graham replies, pausing to look around.
"Yes?" the librarian asks again.
"Could you recommend a good book?"
Reluctantly, the librarian gets up from her seat, walking into the back. Returning a short time later with a book, she places it on the desk with a loud thud.
"There." She says, snapping at Graham as she continues her business.
The book was entitled "Kolyma: Perfect One Day, Better The Next". Browsing through its contents, Graham finds a particularity interesting excerpt...
If you are considering traveling to the wondrous land of Kolyma, then you should be congratulated for you timing; for indeed, it has changed much since creation many years ago.
The very occasional earthquake has altered the land to the east somewhat, creating deep chasms near the mountainside. The changing ocean levels in this region have caused an alteration in the shape of the coastline and, of course, the people themselves have relocated from where they once lived. Most now reside in the town, which is nestled in the safety of the mountains. A wise decision, for more than a few have claimed to hear the sounds of howling at night... a sign that many wild animals have moved into Wierwood Forest in recent times. As a result, few venture past the town gates, especially after dark.
This isolation and the relative scarcity of people throughout most of the realm has made Kolyma a haven for the tourist who wishes to soak up the natural atmosphere of the land. It has also made a significant convenience for those who have settled in Kolyma far from town and wish to maintain their privacy to pursue their own ambitions in peace. The realm of Kolyma is a wondrous land of beauty and, for the adventurous among you, danger.
See also: "Guidebook to the Land of the Green Isles"
With that, Graham leaves the library, while the librarian could not have cared less...
Leaving the village, heading back into the forest, Graham takes a detour, where he finds himself at a, seemingly misplaced, pumpkin patch.
Looking it over, he kneels down before the largest one. Touching it, a Jack O'Lantern face appears on the pumpkin, as it speaks.
"Hey! Watch it!" it yells, in an older, yet feminine sounding voice.
"Oh! Sorry." Graham replies, getting back up, "I was not aware that you could talk."
"Likewise." The pumpkin replies, "Anyway, be careful where you 're treadin'. You 're spoilin' the good soil by standing so close, and I got EIGHT kids to feed!"
Glancing at the smaller pumpkins, it becomes clear to Graham that these are her children. However, something was definitely amiss...
"I only count seven."
"Yeah, well, I HAD eight..." The pumpkin mother replies, "Then some strange man, who spoke even stranger, came by. He claimed to be a... hort... a hortic... a horticul... ...claimed to know a bit about plants. I let him look at my little darlin's. Anyway, before I knew it, he 'ad gone and pinched one of my babies!" Recounting the story of how one of her children was kidnapped bought the mother to tears, "Took off toward the town, he did. Of all the nerve. Just because we 're plants, that does not mean we do not deserve any respect!"
"I... am sure that is true." Graham replies, already sure that he knows who this 'strange man, who spoke even stranger' was.
Leaving, Graham heads further into the forest interior, knowing well that obtaining the baby pumpkin in that charlatan's possession would be quite difficult.
Scanning the area, something glittering catches his eyes; what appeared to be a bag of coins tied up high in a tree is a small bag. Drawing his sword, he strikes the tree's trunk, dislodging the bag of golden coins from the loosely tied knot as soon as they fall to the ground. Examining them, he is dismayed to find they soon turned dark, revealing it to be a pouch of nothing but fool's gold...
"Fool's gold...?" Graham thinks, as a sly smirk crosses his face. "...and I know JUST the fool to give it to."
Returning to the village, sure enough, Graham sees the merchant, still at his stall, taking a midday nap.
Walking up to the town's fountain, Graham tosses the metal coins into the fountain. Gratefully, the coins regain their shine the second they leave his hand. The sound awakens the merchant.
"Huh... wha...?" the merchant says, springing awake.
"Three coins in the fountain." Graham replies.
"What? Let me see!" the merchant says, in his normal voice, leaving his post, unaware of Graham making his way to the small pumpkin. Walking past the merchant, with his prize safely hidden away, Graham could not help but laugh at the greedy fool, though he sure would love to see his face when he finds out that he has been fooled.
Returning to the pumpkin patch, Graham gingerly places the pumpkin back on its pad of roots, where it rightfully belongs.
"My baby!" the mother pumpkin cries, overjoyed.
"MAMA!" the baby pumpkin cries, equally overjoyed to be returned to its loving mother. Even its siblings were overjoyed as well.
Extending her vines to lovingly and affectionately stroke her child, the mother pumpkin returns her attention to Graham.
"Thank you, umm..."
"Graham." He replies.
"Thank you, Graham! Here, take this! Maybe this useless trinket of Hagatha's will be of some use to ya. Serves her right for not enabling me to protect my kids." With her vine, she hands Graham a golden brooch with a beautiful blue sapphire stone.
"Is there anything more I can do for you?" Graham asks, unconcerned as to who this "Hagatha" is.
"Me thirsty, Mama!" the baby complains.
"Now that you mention is..." the mother replies to King Graham's question with perfect timing, "my baby is feeling a bit poorly. After all, livin' in a bowl ain't too good for yer health, ya know?"
"No, I did not know that." Nor has Graham ever even had to think about that, either, "What would make your baby feel better?"
"Fresh water, naturally." The pumpkin mother replies.
"Of course." Graham replies, getting ready to leave.
"Not TOO sweet, though." The mother pumpkin says, stopping the good, yet anonymous king in his footsteps, "In fact, the more bitter, the better. My children are very particular about what they drink."
"I will see what I can do."
Leaving, Graham continues back south into the forest's interior, eventually leading him to a roaring freshwater stream. Using the bowl that housed the baby pumpkin, he fills it up. Setting it down, Graham remembers the lemon he obtained earlier. Using his sword, he cuts through the lemon's skin, squeezing the juices into the bowl of water. Now useless, he discards the lemon.
Heading down a different path, north of the spring, Graham narrowly avoids being caught by an evil enchanter. Unfortunately, his enchanted shield was one thing Graham did not take with him on his journey. Sidetracked, Graham found himself back at the shoreline.
From there, heading back to the pond where he found that unsightly duckling, he continues south from there, finding a small cabin. Passing it by, Graham finds himself back on the path to the village in the middle of the Wierwood Forest. Though, looking off, Graham could see the sandy beach nearby - maybe this is the house where Possum and her grandmother live...
Spying a hollow fallen log, one Graham has passed by several times since arriving in Kolyma, something shiny catches his eye, coming from inside of one of the fallen logs. Peering into the depths of the dark hole, as luck would have it, Graham discovers a beautiful pair of earrings hidden inside; each one is laced with glittering diamonds and contains a lovely blue sapphire stone in the center. Though someone may have stashed them here, King Graham takes them into his possession anyway. Nonetheless, he continues down the path towards the town. However, at the crossroad, Graham finds a small wicker basket. Examining it closely, Graham comes to the conclusion that this basket must belong to that little girl, Possum.
Backtracking, going off the main road, and wading across that small lake, Graham finds himself back at the shore. Walking to around where he met the little girl before, he finds her there, still searching for her basket...
Seeing him, Little Possum rushes up to him to greet him, where he takes the opportunity to hand the little girl her basket.
"Thank you, kind sir." She says, handing him a yellow-colored flower, "Please take this flower. I am afraid that it is all I have to give you."
"It is more than enough." Graham replies, smiling as he accepts the little girl's gift. "I notice that you have picked only YELLOW flowers."
"Of course." Possum replies, "Is it not customary for one to pick yellow flowers for another who is gravely ill?"
"Certainly, it is." Graham replies, "I am sorry to hear about your grandma, Possum."
"Thank you." She replies, forcing back tears, "sniff Goodbye."
As she left, Graham could not help but feel like a heel, bringing up the tender subject of a dying, elderly relative to a girl of such a young age. Taking a deep breath, he continues back to the crossroad, taking the back way, narrowly avoiding crossing paths once again with that evil enchanter.
Finally arriving back at the pumpkin patch, Graham pours the bitter tasting spring water on the baby pumpkin. Surprisingly, it seems to like it.
"Thank you again, Graham." The grateful mother says, "Here, take this." With her vine, she reaches into her head cavity, pulling out a candle, which she hands to him. "That thing has been jammed in my head for as long as I can remember. I know it ain't much, but maybe you 'ill find some use for it."
"Do na' mention it. Besides, it is really hard for me to sleep with that thing lit up inside my head all night."
Leaving the pumpkin patch to the west, Graham came across another pond, one he surprisingly never noticed before (mainly because he failed to TAKE that particular pathway before...) There, he saw a mother swan swimming around with her three cygnets. Remembering the story of "The Ugly Duckling", and how it ended, Graham played a hunch and released the duckling into the lake, careful as not to disturb the swans, as the little duckling swam up, turning from an ugly shade of yellow to a bright shade of white, joining the swans' wedge as they flew off. However, Graham notices a feather fall down from the swan's hide. Carefully, he picks it up and pockets it.
Backtracking past the pumpkin patch, Graham takes the road back into town, passing it and heading south to where he sees the sign leading the way down the path. Cautiously crossing a rickety rope bridge over a deep chasm, Graham finds the stone shown to him in the mirror's premonition. Approaching it, the stone morphs to reveal a face. Its expression is silent, like it seems to be waiting for something...
"Er... greetings." Graham said, "I am King Graham of Daventry." The king said, speaking to the face in the stone door. "Would you, by any chance, know of a way to a strange island, on which stands a quartz tower, in which a beautiful woman is being held captive?"
Graham feels MORE THAN a little foolish. Surely a door, even one with a face, would neither hear nor understand him. However, after what he had seen when he went after the three items that granted Daventry's it long deserved reign of economic prosperity under his reign, nothing was TOO impossible.
"I AM THE DOOR OF DESTINY!" the door replied. Naturally, Graham was taken aback by what he has just seen, let alone heard. "I AM SOUGHT OUT BY MANY, FOUND BY FEW, AND OPENED BY NONE SO FAR. FOR INDEED, ONLY ONCE CAN I BE OPENED. SUCH IS THE MAGIC THAT I AM. THROUGH ME WILL YOU FIND THE DESTINY YOU SEEK... IF YOU CAN BUT PERFORM A TASK."
"Anything!" Graham replied, anxious to get through the door, especially through the remaining window of time he had available. Still, he feels an intense exuberance from coming so close to his goal in such a short time.
"YOU MUST BRING ME THE GEMS OF NATURE." The Door of Destiny replied.
"I beg your pardon?" Graham asks.
The stone door rumbles from deep within. For a brief moment it is silent, until it recites the following poem...
GEMS OF THREE, I ASK OF THEE
TO FETCH, COLLECT, AND BRING TO ME
IN WATER, YOU SHALL FIND THE FIRST
THOUGH NOT THE TIME TO QUINCH YOUR THIRST
SPY THE SECOND HIGH IN THE SKY
WITH WINGS OR NOT, THOU STILL MUST FLY
THROUGH SWAMPY MIRE, SO IT IS HEARD
IN LONE DARK CASTLE, LIES THE THIRD
SHOULD YOU SUCCEED, MY NOBLE KING
TO YOUR FAIR MAIDEN, I WILL BRING
I WARN YOU THOUGH: YOU SHOULD BEWARE
A DANGER, CLOAKED, AWAITS YOU THERE
Without warning, the stony face falls silent. As Graham watches it, the stone's surface gradually smoothes out to blind into the face of the mountainside once more, though not before showing the three triangle-shaped impressions, each blinking the colors blue, green and red are now carved within the mountain's surface. More than likely, these three impressions are where these 'Gems of Nature' are supposed to be placed. Now, all King Graham has to do is FIND them.
"Now HOW did that poem go again?" Graham asked himself, remembering something about water.
Cautiously crossing the rickety bridge, a piece of paper flies right into Graham's face. Taking it, he sees that it is torn and dirty; however it appears to have been part of a flyer of some sorts. Smoothing the torn and tattered paper out, he reads...
Curios, I have.
To the town, do come.
Awaiting, I am.
Deciding to check this out, Graham heads back to the town; again, narrowly avoiding the clutches of the wandering evil sorcerer.
On his escape route, Graham passes by a (literal) tree house. Hearing a rustling in the bushes, Graham assumes that it means a dwarf was roaming the area, and dwarves are notorious thieves. Still, leaving the area, the supposed dwarf does not attempt anything... foolish.
Thrown off course by that evil enchanter again, Graham finds himself back at the cabin by the beach. Opening the mailbox, he sees (incredibly) a letter addressed to the resident. Deciding to leave it there, a card drops to Graham's feet. Reading it...
Have you been missing church lately? How long has it been since your last confession? There is still time yet to repent your sins, before the final hour.
Come to the church of Kolyma, to pray for your own salvation, or just make a donation. Put your faith back into the church, and walk the path that has been laid before you...
Hours: From Dusk 'til Dawn
With a sigh, Graham replaces the card in the mailbox, closes its door, and leaves.
Returning to the beach, Graham was astonished to see before him a somewhat grotesque, yet... extremely beautiful looking mermaid, who was blissfully sunbathing on a nearby rock, running her clawed, webbed fingers through her long, flowing raven-colored hair that extended over most of her cerulean-toned body, hiding her exposed breast line, along with the minute spikes that ran up and down her spine; and the green scales on her lower body sparkle as she basks in the sun.
Slowly walking towards the mermaid, she naturally, yet suddenly tenses up. Clearly, even though she finds Graham to be a somewhat interesting, and perhaps amusing, although strikingly handsome creature (as far, in her opinion, as humans go) it is apparent that she does not trust this human in the slightest. Before Graham could try talking to her, she growls, hissing as she exposes her serrated front teeth and pointed tongue, as her coal black eyes glare at the human standing before her, before she effortlessly dives back into the water. Forced to leave, Graham does so, unaware of the pair of light green eyes that curiously look at him from the water's surface. Still, Graham turns around, as the mermaid dunks back to the safety of her underwater world.
As Graham walked further up the coastline, Graham sees a fallen log, hiding something underneath that barely catches the sun's rays. Upon further examination, he sees a clam lying underneath. Naturally, he picks it up. Prying it open, Graham discovers, to his pleasant surprise, a dazzling pearl.
Leaving the beach, Graham reenters the Wierwood Forest, continuing back to the village. There, he stops and 'talks' to the shifty character who passes himself off as a merchant.
"Greetings again, merchant." Graham says, stirring him from his mid-day nap.
"Yes, many greetings. Need you have now, for my wares of great specialty?"
"What wares do you sell, good merchant?"
"For yourself, behold them!"
Looking over the merchant's 'wares of great specialty,' Graham quickly re-evaluates them as 'junk.'
"You seem to have quite a selection of..." Graham says, looking them over, "...well..." he hesitates further, "...quite a selection!" he concludes, settling on that.
"A keen eye, have you." The merchant replies, "In an item or two, provoke interest I might?"
"A daunting tas... ah..." Graham says, under his breath. "...rather, by all means."
"This, I have." The merchant says, showing off a simple shell.
As Graham appraises it, (although it appears to be a mere shell) it is intricately fashioned into the shape of a comb. The craftsmanship of this simple object is unlike ANYTHING Graham has ever seen before."
"Fascinating." Graham says, examining the shell comb, "Where did you find such a thing?"
"Oh... old it is. From ancient times, descends. Valuable, without question. Royal property former, to be sure." The merchant replies.
Briefly, Graham considers the man's story, wondering WHICH beach this man found the shell comb on.
"If I were to, say, purchase the shell..." Graham asks, "how much would it cost?"
"A trifle, would you expend." The merchant replies, "Seven gold coins."
"I fear that I did not bring any money." Graham replies.
"Curiosity, I find, in one who travels, but with nothing to barter he brings."
For once, (Graham hates to admit) this guy has a good point.
"Might you TRADE the shell comb for something?" Graham asks.
The merchant ponders this for a brief moment.
"Of value, many things are. Of fancy, only one I have."
"And that is?" Graham replies, getting suspicious.
Reluctantly, Graham holds the one he found just moments earlier in front of him, "Would you be interested in THIS pearl?"
"Indeed, I would!" the merchant replies, his eyes sparkling, "In return, this shell I present to you. May you be always groomed well." The merchant grabs the pearl, and tosses the shell comb to Graham. Then, he saunters off. Still, history will decide how greatly King Graham has been swindled. "Hahar What a beauty!" the merchant cackles to himself, back to his normal voice, "This will be worth a fortune back home!"
Then, reentering the Kolyman Library, he approaches the librarian once more.
"Yes?" she asks, unconcerned.
"Could you recommend another good book?"
Sighing, the librarian heads back to the back room; returning a short time later with another book.
"There." She said, placing the leather bound volume before him, one entitled "Way Below Your League: A Look At Sentient Aquatic Life". Again, leafing through it, Graham finds an interesting excerpt.
Wish to explore the sea? Good luck! Even the most accomplished swimmers cannot swim very far before they tire or are pulled underwater by the currents. Even with a ship, it is difficult to properly explore beneath the surface without some means of breathing underwater.
Truly, only the Mer-people have ever been known to offer aid in this regard. Thought the relationship between land dwellers and their marine counterparts has been somewhat strained over the year, it is said that the Mer-people (in particular their leader, King Neptune) can appraise an individual quite accurately. In fact, they seem to possess a natural ability to sense whether a person intends hostility toward them or not. Fortunately for the would-be adventurer to their underwater kingdom, they are a peaceful people, not prone to unwarranted acts of violence.
The Mer-people's nature is a sharp contrast to that of their neighbors, the Sharkees, who live in seclusion in the deeper, darker waters of the ocean. Little is known about them, except that they are fearsome to behold and do not take kindly to visitors, they are rumored to be excessively xenophobic, and hence, have avoided contact with most of the outside world. It can be assumed that trespassers into their territory would be dealt with swiftly and harshly.
Closing the book, Graham thanks the librarian and leaves. Outside, Graham sees a malnourished horse. To his dismay, there is nothing he can do for the poor animal at the moment as he leaves the village to head back to the beach.
There, the mermaid has returned to her rock. About to swim away yet again, she notices the shell comb in Graham's outstretched hand. Clear recognition shines in the mermaid's delighted, leathery yet delicate face. At first, she hesitates, before she cautiously extends her arms with hands expectantly outstretched. Wading out to her, Graham gently places the comb in the mermaid's palm.
After examining the odd looking comb, the mermaid softly smiles, as she begins to remove an opal necklace from around her neck, handing it to Graham in exchange. Admiring her long-lost possession for a moment, she looks at Graham with anticipation.
Graham attempts to charade the act of going underwater to the mermaid. She regards him with a look of puzzlement. But just when the whole demonstration becomes too embarrassing for Graham to continue, she suddenly dives into the sea and swims right up to him. To Graham's surprise, the mermaid pulls him down, wrapping her silken, leathery arms around his neck, forcedly locking her plump, full, dark lips with his with a look of pure lust and ecstasy in her all black eyes, Graham's shock and protests fails to faze her before he finally submits.
Finally releasing a catatonic Graham from her rather intense kiss, the mermaid dives underwater once more. Coming to, Graham wonders where the mermaid swam off to. Then, he suddenly feels a sharp tug at his legs, forcing him under.
Although every reflex and instinct Graham has tells him to stay above water at all costs, the mermaid keeps a tight hold on him, preventing him from resurfacing. He intensively struggles while trying to hold his breath, but she still refused to let go. Graham felt that this was the end, and he was about to black out.
Feeling a tender hand caress his cheek, Graham realizes that he is underwater, and that he is still breathing.
"How can this be?" Graham thinks, "Could it have been that mermaid's kiss?"
She smiles, before swimming off, returning with a giant seahorse.
Swimming onto the strange creature's saddle, the seahorse willingly allows Graham to ride on its back. (Talk about a new experience.) Taking the reins in hand, Graham hopes this creature knows where it is going.
After a time of traveling through ever deepening water, Graham arrives at a massive stone archway. Passing through, Graham notices that it is covered with many different, intricate symbols, none of which he recognizes. "Could this be Mer-writing?" he thinks as he emerged on the other side of the arch as a grand sight greets his eyes. Escorted into an aquatic throne room, what he sees seated in its center takes Graham's breath away (if that term still applies.) Unmistakably, seated upon the clamshell throne, was the ruler of the Mer-people and king of this watery world. Humans know him by many names, however "Neptune" is the one by which he is best known by.
Respectively bowing before the sea king, he returns the gesture by lowering his own head. Graham tries to speak, but only a bubble, floating straight to the surface, emerges. As King Neptune makes a waving gesture with his arms, Graham looks on as his air bubble divides in two. Incredibly, each half maintains its semi-spherical shape. Graham takes each half of the bubble and positions them respectively close to his ear and mouth, hearing a deep, elegant voice boom from each half.
"You are welcome here, human." The voice of King Neptune calmly states.
"Thank you. I am King Graham of Daventry."
"Your courtesy depicts your stature." King Neptune replies, "What is it you seek here?"
Graham explains to his host that he seeks the three Gems of Nature, and that he believes that one of them may be somewhere in this realm. He demonstrates the approximate size and shape of the Gem, then he mentions the Door of Destiny and what he hopes to find on the other side.
"Hmmmm. I do have what you are seeking," King Neptune replies, "and I know of the Door of Destiny. It is very old; its origins are known to but a few. What I possess was known to the Ancients as the Birth Gem. In the realm of the Mer-people, it is called the Water Gem. For without water, life cannot begin."
"Might I have this Gem, Your Majesty?" Graham requests.
"I shall let you have the Gem." King Neptune replies, "But first, I must ask you to earn it by way of performing a service for me."
Graham is about to reply "Anything," but then he remembers what he had heard the LAST time he said that word to the stone door. Instead, he just nods, allowing King Neptune to continue.
"My trident, the symbol of my power and the strength of my people, has been stolen." King Neptune explains.
A faint mumbling was heard through the ear-half of the bubble. Graham felt that it was safe to assume that this event has caused great stress to the Mer-people, especially those in attendance.
"It is believed that one of our allies and neighbors have taken advantage of the Mer-peoples' kindness, and that their own king now has possession of the trident. If you can reclaim it, in the name of the Mer-people, I will grant you ownership of the Water Gem. Will you do this, King Graham?"
The murmuring stops as all in attendance await King Graham's response.
"I would be honored to reclaim your trident, Your Majesty." King Graham replies, without the slightest hesitation.
"My sentries will escort you to the border between our two kingdoms. You may continue to use that steed to hasten your journey. It is my best." King Neptune informs King Graham, who gets a gentle nudge from the seahorse he holds by the reins. "My sincerest hopes that you do not fall victim to the Sharkees."
As Graham prepares himself for this new quest, a sudden pang of apprehension seizes over him.
"Did the king just say Sharkees...?" Graham thinks to himself, "As in... sharks?"
As he departs from the Mer-people's underwater kingdom, he sees two guards waiting to escort him to the Sharkees' realm.
The sentries swiftly guide King Graham along the bottom of the seabed, descending into much darker, colder water. After keeping pace with them for what seems like an eternity, he notices a forebodingly dark area looming closer and closer...
Soon, King Graham and Neptune's sentries arrive at the border of the Sharkees' kingdom; this is as far as the sentries would take him. One of the guards salute King Graham before they both head back to the safety of their own waters. From that point onward, King Graham had to carry out this mission alone. Still, those guards were sure in a hurry to get out of there...
Literally traveling blind, Graham finds himself at the remains of a sunken ship, which (fortunately) fails to resemble the Granthithor in the slightest. From the looks of how the ship was built, he guesses the ship was sunk over two or three centuries ago. He examines the heavy waterlogged remnants of the vessel a little further, where he notices an antique wine bottle half-buried in the sand. With great difficulty, Graham leans over in the saddle, and manages to scoop it up. Setting back upright, Graham removes the cloth covering the bottle. Leaving, he continues his search for the Sharkees' lair.
Reaching, what appears to be, a dead end, Graham notices a strange moss growing on one of the underwater stones. Figuring that it MAY come in handy, Graham rides over to the rock, picking off come of the grassy moss that grew in between the rocks, stuffing it into the bottom of the glass bottle. The sugary smell of the grass, amplified by that of the left over wine, gave off quite an alluring odor. Noticing some luminescent fish swimming nearby, Graham places the bottle on the seabed, and then leaves, although he does not journey far.
Seconds later, a few of the glowing fish enter the bottle, with no way of escape. Taking the bottle, Graham smiles - this will make an effective torch, like a jar of fireflies, if he ever came to a place that was too dark to see.
Continuing his blind search, Graham finds himself at another dead end. Suddenly, he notices fish moving suspiciously in and out of the rock wall. Reaching out to touch it, Graham is astonished to find his hand passing through it. The western wall was nothing more than an elaborate illusion. Graham easily passes through into a series of caves and tunnels onto the other side. There, it was an area of pitch darkness. Using the bottle as a light source, Graham eventually finds himself in front of a huge clam. Dismounting his borrowed stead, and tying its reigns to a nearby rock, he slides the blade of his sword through a small gap in the clam-shaped door, pulling with all his might. It was difficult handling the aged weapon, and he soon realizes that underwater combat would not be an option... if it ever came to that, he would be in huge trouble. Finally budging the huge clam, Graham swims aside. As the door opens, ample light floods into the underwater cavern. Now Graham was able to make his way around without the aid of those glowing fish.
Bravely, Graham ventures fourth into the Sharkees' stronghold. Unfortunately, the seahorse has loosened its reigns from the rock and followed Graham inside. Silencing it, Graham hopes this turn of events does not give his presence away. Safely concealed behind the remnants of a stone archway, it is fortunate that the King of the Sharkees is also there. Aside from the huge fish-creature's menacing appearance, he appears to be in a very bad mood.
"I do not understand it!" the Sharkee King bellowed, in a deep, almost demonic sounding voice, "It should work for me!" he says, trying to handle the trident, "Is it not written, 'The trident's power can only be wielded by those of good will?' Well, is it not!?" the other Sharkees tremble, each fervently nodding. "And do I not possess the GREATEST will in this kingdom? No one can best me in battle. My resolve is unshakable. No amount of pleading can dissuade me from slaughtering my enemies. Does this not signify that my will is the BEST there is?"
The Sharkee King's aides seem all too willing to agree.
"THEN WHY DOES IT NOT WORK!?" The Sharkee King grumbles, getting up from his boney throne, swimming over to a strange vault. Graham watches carefully at the Sharkee King taps four shells in a certain order around the vault's arch. With a great rumbling, the vault door opens and the Sharkee King enters, exiting soon afterwards WITHOUT the trident. "It matters not." The Sharkee King billows, as soon as the vault door seals shut, "Tomorrow, we invade the Mer-peoples' territory. For without the trident's power, that old fool Neptune and his weakling followers will fall before our might. Good will... Hah! Mine is superior of all!"
As he leaves, the Sharkee King motions for his guards to remain. Having an idea, King Graham approaches his somewhat reluctant steed. Slapping it hard on its backside, as expected, the seahorse 'gallops' off, momentarily distracting the guards, forcing them to leave their post, chasing it; now was Graham's chance.
Swimming up to the vault, Graham presses the shells into the sea wall in the pattern he saw the Sharkee King use, revealing a treasure trove of gold and jewelry. However, King Graham is here for only one thing - the trident. Without delay, he snatches it up before the guards could return to their posts. Exiting the vault, it appears that the guards were beginning to lose interest in the seahorse, so Graham makes his way to the exit. Unfortunately, it instinctively followed its rider back through the secret entrance, along with the Sharkee guards. Having no other choice, Graham remounts the seahorse and makes his way out of the cavern with the Sharkee guards in tow.
Graham's seahorse glides onward, flicking its little tail faster than ever. He grips the reigns tightly, glancing nervously over his shoulder every so often to check for pursuing sentries. As he makes distance, his anxiety melts into relief. But, it is to be short lived, as Graham is forced to avoid various stalactites and stalagmites, forming the cave's shark jaw-like teeth. Finally, he sees the light at the end of the tunnel as he makes a mad dash towards the exit.
As Graham emerges from the cavern, he realizes that he only has a few brief seconds to spare before the guards come out after him. And even if he could outrun them, he was sure the commotion would attract the sentries' attention. Then he would be in REAL trouble!
Suddenly, Graham hears a strange voice speaks from inside his head...
He of noble and good will,
Royal Trident thou may wield.
...the voice of the trident's spirit said to Graham.
Getting the idea, Graham pointed the business end of the almighty weapon at the cavern's entrance, as lightning shoots out into the magical wall. Graham wonders what happened, is anything happened... Until a loud rumbling was heard and felt, giving Graham his answer. The concealing wall cast aside, Graham saw the two flattened corpses of his pursuers, as the wall behind them becomes permanently sealed.
Leaving, the trident guides Graham back to Neptune's realm. There, in the underwater throne room, Graham approaches the king, who smiles, graciously accepting the trident from its human savior. Then, King Neptune calls everyone to attention.
"To commemorate the return of my trident and to honor King Graham's success, I hereby call for a celebration!" King Neptune states to a cheering crowd.
The celebration lasts for some time. Graham eats, drinks, and has a merry time with many of the Mer-people. After a few hours, the festivities die down, and Graham finally has a chance to speak with Neptune alone.
"The Gems of Nature represent three stages of life." King Neptune says, "Water gives birth to life, and thus what I have given you is the first of three. Second is the Growth Gem, or the Air Gem, for air sustains life and permits it to grow."
"How might I find the Growth Gem?" Graham asks.
"I know only that its location is as far above the surface of the land as we are below it." King Neptune answers, "Beyond that, I cannot aid you." A smirk momentarily crosses Neptune's face, "You might say that AIR is not exactly... my element."
Though he politely chuckles along with his gracious host, Graham decides that the beverages consumed during the celebration were to blame for that one...
"And the third Gem, Your Majesty?" Graham asks.
"Third is the Death Gem." King Neptune replies, "The completion of life, and the natural order of things. The Door of Destiny understands this now, as did the Ancients who imprisoned the soul within." Slightly pausing, "As for the Gem's location... I had hoped you would have no business venturing to the castle. Kolyma was once ruled from that place, but sadly, her people have not seen their lord for quite some time."
"How long a time?" Graham asks.
"Ooooh... ...a good four, maybe five decades."
"Decades? Surely then..."
"If you please, I would prefer not to dwell upon this subject." King Neptune requests, "You have done a great service this day, and I thank you. Good luck, King Graham. And God speed!"
Graham departs the underwater kingdom, heading back towards the surface.
"What an incredible experience!" King Graham says to himself, emerging from the water, "I am certain that I will never forget the adventure I have just had." Then, admiring the blue gem, "Additionally, I have acquired one of the gems!" As he dries himself off, Graham realizes that the magic that has allowed him to breathe underwater has now unfortunately subsided.
Walking past the cabin, taking the path back to the village, Graham took the piece of cloth that was covering that old bottle, placing it near the edge of the haystack.
"Here." He says, "This might help your sneezing."
"Oh, thanks." The strange little man says, taking it and blowing his nose, "Here... you can have this back now."
Reluctantly, Graham retrieves the partially used cloth from the haystack.
"Feel better?" Graham asks, trying to hide his disgust.
"Yeah! It is so good to be able to b... ...br... ...br... ...brea... ACHOOOOOOOO!"
About to leave, Graham's foot steps on top of a silver needle; obviously it was discarded during that strange little man's last sneeze.
Reentering the village, Graham paid another visit to the local library.
"Yes?" the librarian says, seeing Graham has returned.
"Could you recommend another good book?" Graham asks; and like before, the librarian grumbles as she shuffles into the back room, shortly returning thereafter with another good book.
"There." She says, nearly shouting... AGAIN, placing the book before Graham.
This time, the book was simply titled "Legends". Leafing through it, Graham finds another interesting excerpt...
Daventry's First King, known to many as Legenimor, is as much an enigma of history as he is woven into the fabric of legend itself. Though his passing occurred nearly one thousand years ago, it remains somewhat unclear as to the manner of his death and what became of the power he wielded. Historians do know that Legenimor was a powerful magician, or a wizard, as he might be called nowadays. He is largely credited with bringing, along with his kind, magic and civility to Daventry and the surrounding world.
According to legend, during what was arguably the bloodiest war Daventry has ever seen, Legenimor sought to commit his awesome power to the cosmos. It is believed that he blamed himself for the extent to the Grand War, in particular, the magic that had been used to exacerbate the death toll. He therefore chose to render himself mortal, an action that would prove to be his last.
However, legend would also suggest that his power may be attainable, if only one were to perceive and understand how and when. This is evidenced by a parchment located just a few centuries ago and dated thirty years after the First King's death.
If seeketh you the power of Legenimor, thou shalt be well appraised.
It will not be an easy task; from the path thou may be swayed.
For in great Daventry lies the means, for which it may be found
Belonging to one who rules the land, by one who wears the crown
From this circle nature springs, from royal thoughts thus sown.
Though woe betide the unjust thief who claims it for his own.
In this great land, 'tis known to rest, the corpse of Legenimor
Who died defending his home turf, in the longest, fiercest war
His great mistake, which sealed his fate; he cast his magic aside
Up high into the Heavens, which forever stretches wide
But the search may be rewarding, for the seeker of this power
As its apex soon approaches; when cometh the darkest hour
Hark! Spy sun and moon and planets, as all of them align
The one prepared for the ascension, will surely see the sign
Power thus can then be granted, to just one from this great fool
If one be thee, then thou shalt be, the everlasting jewel.
The First King's brother, Morgeilen, was also presumed killed in the Great War. Legenimor's loyal first knight and successor, Granthithor, ruled over the realm for nearly fifty years. He sired a number of children who either remained to guarantee the continuation of the royal bloodline or set forth to build kingdoms of their own.
Thanking the uncaring librarian, Graham leaves the library for his next destination, wherever that may be...
Outside, Graham enters another of the village's buildings, housing a strange shop of sorts.
"Good afternoon." The lady shopkeeper says, greeting Graham as soon as she sees him enter her shop, "What can I do for you, dear?"
"Hello." Graham replies, "Do you sell anything that would aid an ascent up a mountain?"
"Unfortunately, I do not sell climbing equipment or anything of that sort. This is really a specialist shop."
"Oh." Graham replies, disappointed.
"However, I DO have an item which you might find useful. This lamp..." she indicates a small oil lamp at the edge of the table, "...is said to contain a genie! Never tried it myself, of course. I do not believe in using magic to solve my problems. Nature has made us as we are, and we should be glad of that."
"Uh-huh..." Graham says, suspicious and skeptical about the older lady's claim, "How much for the lamp?"
The old lady hesitates. Graham senses that she wants more from him than money; he just hopes that it would not anything he would regret.
"Well... seeing as how you are a man who seems adept at taking care of himself, perhaps you could do me a small favor?"
Somehow, Graham knew she was going to say that.
"I once owned a beautiful nightingale." The old lady continued, "Quite rare around here, but the sentimental value far outweighs its monetary wealth. That foul old witch, Hagatha, has stolen it from me, probably to use in some concoction or another." Her nose screws up in disgust. "So if you could be a sweetie and retrieve it for me, I will trade you. The lamp for the bird. Agreed?"
"sigh Well..." Graham says, "I will see what I can do."
"Do be careful." The old lady replied, "If Hagatha should spot you with her good eye... then you shall be in for it!"
Leaving the shop, and the village, Graham is confident, almost too confident, having already faced, and defeated, the child eating Witch Dahila, as he made his way to the other side of the Wierwood Forest, where Graham finds himself in front of a cave. At its entrance are skulls hoisted on either side, with a crude painting of a bat over the top-center.
Examining one of the human skulls, Graham sees a radiant stone wedged into one of the eye sockets. However, the other skull was missing its stone. Checking the jewels he was carrying with him, Graham finds one that may find suitable. Unfortunately, it is the Birth Gem...
Reluctantly, he attempts to place the Birth Gem into the other skull's eye socket, discovering that it did not fit quite properly. Instead, it juts out uselessly, like a bulging eyeball. Taking his mallet, he gently taps the Birth Gem, hoping not to break it. It bulges only slightly, so he gives it a slightly harder hit, moving it a bit more. Graham holds his breath as he gives it an even harder whack as the Gem pops firmly into the skull.
Facing the skull towards the image of the bat above the cave's opening, Graham notices that its wing slightly fades. However, Graham suspects that whatever danger that bat represents is still present. Playing a hunch, Graham turns the other skull in the direction of the bat symbol on top of the cave's entrance. The combined power of the two skulls causes the bat symbol to disappear! Graham now feels that whatever danger it represented has finally subsided.
As he enters, Graham is almost overwhelmed by a foul stench that molests his nostrils. It is obviously coming from whatever Hagatha is cooking in that large cauldron of hers. There are some things of interest on the other side of the cave, but he has no means of crossing over there safely (at this time - she was right over the pot concocting her latest witch's brew). Still, a caged nightingale sat on the floor near the cave's northern wall. The light from outside barely penetrates the cave's interior. So long as he keeps his distance, Hagatha should fail to notice him.
Being as quiet as a mouse, Graham slides his hand inside a cloak hanging on Hagatha's broomstick, which leans against a nearby wall, to discover a deep pocket. Amongst sticky and disgusting spell ingredients, he finds a tiny silver key and a peculiar golden ring-shaped device. Without the witch noticing, Graham slides the key into the lock securing the chains binding the bird's cage to the floor... and it fits! He silently turns it as chains fall to the ground. Grateful that the witch is also hard of hearing, Graham silently slips the (washed and dried) piece of cloth, the one he had previously loaned to that strange hay fever sufferer near the village walls, over the cage, and without making a sound, he takes the nightingale into his possession.
Outside, Graham takes his mallet, striking the skull with all of his might, which easily shatters. The Birth Gem clatters to the ground, while otherwise undamaged, along with a multitude of bone fragments. From the ground, Graham reacquires the Birth Gem.
Traveling back to the village, Graham reenters the old lady's antique shop, offering the nightingale to Old Lady Angelina. The sheer elation on her face almost makes the whole risk worth the while. Still, she snatches the birdcage away and proceeds to fuss over the bird. Graham waits a moment, but it seems that she no longer notices him.
"Ahem! If you do not mind..." Graham finally says, "...about the lamp you promised me in trade for the nightingale?"
The shopkeeper vaguely looks at Graham, gradually remembering that there is another being in her world.
"Yes?" Angelina asks, "Oh, yes! Take it! You will have no beginning of use with it."
"Excuse me, but... do you not mean 'no end of use'?"
"Of course! Whatever you say, dear!"
Graham hears Angelina cheerfully muttering something to herself as she exits for the back room.
"Finally, I have the final ingredient for that marvelous youth potion." Graham hears Angelina mutter, just before the door slams shut, "I am going to beat you to the punch, my dear Hagatha! Serves you right for hoarding this sweet, juicy thing to yourself!"
All of a sudden, Graham feels a nauseous tinge in his stomach for being made a stooge. Oh well, at least the lamp is now his. Taking it, he rubs it, and waits expectantly... but nothing happens. He is about to give it another try when a small puff of smoke appears at the end of the spout. Clearing, it reveals... ...a note. As Graham removes it, the lamp disappears! Unrolling the parchment, Graham reads what was written on the scroll.
To the unlucky fool who bought this lamp,
As you may have gathered, this lamp no longer contains a fabulous Genie, as my former Master (praise Him and His greatness) has released me with his final wish. However, as a consolation, please be advised of the following!
The shopkeeper is not to be trusted. She dabbles in the black arts and keeps rather distasteful company. May these words reveal what lies beneath, and may your findings lead you to a higher position in life:
So hard like a stone
And white like the snow,
Stands silent the man
Who guards what is below.
May you forever know the beauty of freedom.
-Ni'Bor Si'Ma'Will (Genie)
Looking around the shop, Graham notices a porcelain figure in the far corner. Upon closer examination, he discovers that the statue hides a small latch. Flipping it, he watches in amazement as a trapdoor opens up from the floor.
Taking the hidden stairway, Graham closes the trapdoor behind him, finding himself in a dark basement, where the only source of light is from a small hole in the floor above.
Finding a letter on one of the tables, he follows his late father's sage advice, and reads onward...
Once again, I put to you an invitation to join our illustrious community. Unsurprisingly, you have heard of its reputation through other channels. I personally encourage you to give it serious thought. We are not only interested in new membership from the mages of this world. This invitation goes out to all who believe that, when the appointed time comes, only the faithful will be rewarded. The rest of those poor, unenlightened fools will perish. All that is asked in return is complete allegiance to The Father. He has guided us from the beginning, and His power is far older than most. I know you are hesitant due to concerns regarding the dress code. Let me assure you that black would look simply charming on you, dear.
My gratitude goes out to you for your flattering assertion that I would make a fine ruler of Kolyma. What a shame that the former ruler has lost all interest in his homeland. I cannot blame him, however. The change struck him quite hard.
To answer your earlier question, yes, I have acquired a nightingale. They are most uncommon in this region, and yes, I am quite sure that it is the final ingredient required to complete my youth potion. As much as I would like to share it with you, I am afraid that a single nightingale will provide only enough solution for one person. In any event, I shall, of course, pay you a visit the moment the youth potion takes effect.
Walking over to the other end of the darkened basement, Graham picks up a red carpet, with a small label reading...
"Property of Al din."
(...of course, there was a faded letter or two in the name. But Graham could not be too sure on whether there really was, or not.)
Then, from the main room above the basement, Graham can discern Angelina's voice...
"I did it! I did it!" she squeals, "The youth potion is finally finished! All I need to do now is drink it..."
With that, the door slams open, as another familiar, yet equally unfamiliar voice enters the room...
"Angelina." The voice says, "Show yourself, you scurvy wench!"
"H-h-hagatha! My dear! What an... unexpected supr-"
"Do not try to pull the wool over my eyes!" Hagatha spat back, "I know you stole it!"
"Heheh Stole?" Angelina replies, "Really, Hagatha; I honestly have no idea wha-"
"Silence!" Hagatha interrupts Angelina, with an ever-growing dose of venom in her voice, "For your lies and deceit, there can only be one consequence."
"No!" Angelina pleads, her voice washed with fear, "Please! I can explai-"
"I said SILENCE!" Hagatha replies, pausing, "Oh, and one more thing..."
Graham has to brace himself against a sturdy surface as the room begins to rumble.
"...Your invitation to join is us revoked!" Hagatha growls. Then... "What is this? Ah! The youth potion! At last... ...Oh no!"
Graham gets out of the way as a vile falls through the hole - whatever it was, at least it did not shattered as it lands in a pile of down feathers.
"Drat!" Hagatha cursed, "Now what was that spell for removing floorboards? Curses! I shall have to go back and look it up..." With the slam of the door, Graham fishes through the down and picks up the vial, pocketing it for later - it may be the perfect blackmail tool to use later on.
Cautiously, Graham opens the trapdoor ever-so-slightly and peers into the room above. Fortunately, Hagatha is nowhere to be seen, so he makes his exit from the basement. Flicking the latch, the trapdoor shuts, concealing itself once again in the floorboards.
Leaving the village, Graham walks to the crossroads leading into the town. Unrolling the carpet, Graham sits down upon it. As it begins to rise, the magic carpet moves skyward. As Graham ascends higher and higher off the ground, he realizes that the carpet is beyond his control, gliding through the air on a seemingly predestined course.
It leads him to the top of a cliff high overlooking Kolyma. Walking forward, not taking any time to admire the view, Graham finds this giant snake guarding its territory - whether it was poisonous or not, Graham did not wish to find out the hard way. Dangling the shimmering opal, the one he had earlier received from the mermaid, in front of the snake, it soon falls hypnotized, in typical snake fashion, allowing Graham to pass. As soon as Graham leaves, the snake snaps out of its trance.
Finding a cave, Graham sees a hole inside one of the rocks sitting outside. Reaching into the rock's cavity, Graham feels around. "What is this?" he asks, discovering a hidden button inside the rock. Pressing it, Graham waits to see what happens next.
In an instant, a man stands before Graham. Judging from the way he is dressed, he appears to be a fellow adventurer.
"Greetings. I am King Graham of Daventry." Graham says, introducing himself.
The newcomer nods in greeting. Without a word, he respectively appraises Graham, noticing about him the manner of one who has only recently learnt the meaning of heroism.
"From where do you hail, good sir?" Graham asks.
The man opens his mouth to answer, but then pauses to consider that question. Evidently deciding their irrelevant exposition would serve neither party. The strange man casually gestures to the hole in the rock behind Graham.
"Might I inquire something of your identity?" Graham asks.
After a brief search of his own person, the man pulls out a scroll card, and hands it to Graham. He unrolls it, and reads, "Having fulfilled the requirements in accordance with the statutes of the 'Famous Adventurer's Correspondence School,' the bearer is a qualified would-be hero."
The man also shows Graham a medallion. Upon it, are the words: "Hero of Spielberg."
Graham reverently returns the scroll to the man.
"You don't say much, do you?" Graham asks.
With a sigh of resignation, the man shakes his head slightly.
"Surely you might speak to me of your adventures?"
The man becomes quite enthused about the prospect of relating his most recent adventure to Graham. Just as he is about to speak, however...
...the strange man suddenly disappears into thin air. Stunned, Graham notices something the strange man must've dropped. Retrieving the charred paper, it appears to be a scroll fragment of some sorts. Unfortunately, its writing has been forever lost to time. (AUTHOR'S NOTE: What REALLY happened, AND what was written down, was a plug for the developer's remake of video game, 'Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire'.)
Disposing of the burnt parchment, Graham enters the cave, preparing himself for the worst. Inside, he sees an elaborately decorated living chamber - a clear sign that SOMEONE lives there. Snooping around the room, Graham sees an ancient book lying open on the workbench. Though its pages are torn and faded, the cover is still a bright blood red. Graham approaches the workbench for a better look. Flipping through the book's pages, entitled "Ye Olde Book of Enchantments: Causes and Cures", Graham sees pages containing a list of enchantments. Though none of them interest him, since he has no desire of inflicting inconvenience upon others, the 'cures' section catches Graham's curiosity. While browsing, Graham spies a promising paragraph...
While casting enchantments upon others may provide you with many daily hours of fun, do not ignore the danger that a miscast spell may have upon your own person. For this reason, you should prepare a simple item that which you can protect yourself against the effects of enchantment, as well as providing a means for reversing said spell, should it be deemed necessary.
Only the power of the emerald can properly dispel an enchantment, and thus the steps to create one, are as follows. Firstly, heat a blue mineral and yellow vegetable (a plant is an acceptable alternative) together, until they coagulate into a greenish liquid. Stir the mixture with a white feather. Drop this into a perfectly clear crystal, and recite:
Heed now these words
Green is thy hue
Guard well thy form
You will now have the means to safeguard yourself, should your enchantments ever get out of hand. To restore that which is under the effect of an enchantment, simply allow a strong light to pass through your emerald, at the subject. Then behold the restoration.
Using the book's instruction, Graham tosses the earrings into a nearby beaker, as well as the sickly yellow flower, given to him by Possum, striking the blade of his sword against the flintstone, causing it to spark, which lights a fire underneath the glass beaker as Graham watches with intense fascination as the two unlikely objects melt under the heat of the magical flame. Using his mallet, Graham manages to dislodge the crystal that had been set within the hilt of the First King's sword for almost a millennium. Feeling a twinge of guilt, Graham wonders what all the past monarchs of Daventry would say if they saw him damaging ancient crown property. Setting it aside, Graham takes the swan feather, carefully stirring the strange concoction with it, mixing it into the hot fluid as it dissolves. Then, dropping the crystal into the mixture, Graham watches, amazed, as the green liquid slowly seeps into it.
"Heed now these words -" Graham says, repeating the incantation, "Crystal, Perfect. Green is thy hue - Restore, Correct. Guard well thy form - Preserve, Protect!"
Correctly reciting the words, line for line, a brilliant emerald is all that remains inside the beaker. Quickly blowing out the flame, as not to overheat and damage the emerald, he gingerly picks it up, amazed that it took virtually no time for the emerald to cool.
Leaving the cave, Graham is confronted, once again, by that snake. Showing little fear of the slithering beast, Graham positions the sun's light into the emerald, focusing its light onto the snake, as a marvelous transformation plays out before Graham's amazed eyes - the snake transforms into a beautiful white Pegasus.
"Thank you for freeing me." The Pegasus says to Graham, "A horrid enchanter transformed me into that legless thing after I refused to be his steed."
"That was quite a gamble," Graham replies, "to refuse an enchanter."
"True, but I could not have accepted, even if I had wanted to. For I am a Disciple of the Cloud, and can serve no land dweller."
"Disciple of the Cloud?" Graham asks, "What does that mean?"
"First, tell me of what you seek up here."
Taking a deep breath, Graham explains about the Door of Destiny, the Gems of Nature, and his present quest to locate the Growth Gem.
"So... you seek the Air Gem." The Pegasus replies.
"Yes, that is right! You know of it?"
"Most certainly... But you will not be able to reach it by any means available to you, or any of your kind. I would gladly take you to it, but alas, the enchanter took and hid from me my bridle. Without it, we could search for a thousand years, and still never find the Cloud Spirit."
"Where did he hide your bridle?" Graham asks.
"I do not know." The Pegasus replies, "Perhaps a clue may be found in that blaggard's abode behind me."
Returning to the cave, Graham starts to search the premises. In the middle of his rummaging, Graham hears footsteps approaching from outside. The enchanter has caught Graham in the act! Twirling his hands, he aims them at Graham, uttering some words under his breath. Feeling a tingling sensation course through his body as the enchantment attempts to transform him into whatever its caster had fancied, Graham feels comforted at the fact the emerald's energy is shielding him. The enchanter's twisted smile soon turns into a scowling frown, when he realizes that his spell has failed. Cornering the aged enchanter against the cave wall, Graham draws his sword, bringing the tip of its blade eerily close to the evil wizard's throat. There is a look of panic on his face as the enchanter dares not to breathe.
"I hereby order you to depart from Kolyma forever," King Graham orders, "never to trouble its citizens again, lest you earn the fullest of my wrath."
The enchanter looks baffled. Sighing inwardly, King Graham tries again.
"Leave!" King Graham demands again, "If... you... come... back... then... you... will... get it!"
The enchanter frantically nods, as much as he can without cutting his own neck with the edge of Graham's sword, then he quickly gestures with his hands. With that, the enchanter disappears, along with the contents of his cave.
Satisfied, Graham seethes his sword. Looking around, Graham notices some writing on the wall, where Graham reads the following inscription...
IN ROWS OF STONE
THAT NUMBER SIX
HALF AND A PAIR
FROM LEFT TO PICK
QUELL THEN MY SPELL
AVOID THE TRICKS
Leaving, Graham does not see anything left in that cave worth staying for, heading back to the cliff side. Unrolling that carpet once more, it rises to the air and takes him back to the forest crossroads.
Exploring, he finds himself at this huge stone mound, with a row of six good-sized rocks at the bottom. Bending over at the fifth stone from the end, Graham uses his enchanted emerald, focusing the sun's light onto it, as the rock incredibly transform into a silver-studded bridle. Taking it, Graham heads back to the crossroads, using the carpet once more to take him back to the cliff. Once there, Graham is shocked that, as he reaches down for it, the carpet disappears into thin air, without as much as a puff of smoke. Still, he was here to give the Pegasus back its bridle. 'Maybe it will give me a lift back to the surface.' He thought, approaching the majestic steed.
Slipping the bridle over the Pegasus' head, it whinnies its approval.
"Come, climb upon my back." The Pegasus requests, one to which Graham gladly complies. "Hold on!" the Pegasus then instructs, "This will be a little... exhilarating!"
The Disciple of the Cloud gracefully soars high into the sky. Graham grips the reigns tightly and holds on for dear life as the winged horse swoops and dips between the clouds - already, he was wishing that he still had the magic flying carpet in his possession. After a time, he draws near to a thick patch of luminous mist. As Graham passes through it, the Pegasus sets itself down, seemingly on top of a cloud.
"It is all right." The Pegasus says, as if reading Graham's apprehensive mind, "You can dismount now."
Believing that he has finally lost all sense of reason, Graham dismounts, prepared for a VERY long fall... ...only to find himself STANDING on top of a cloud. Cautiously walking over this new terrain, taking each step as lightly as he could, Graham finally asks, "What IS this Spirit you speak of?"
"The essence of what you seek." The Pegasus replies, "It passes through us as we grow, all through our lives, though few are even aware of it. You will know soon enough."
"Why do you choose to serve this Cloud Spirit?"
"It is my destiny, and I must fulfill it. Just as you must fulfill yours."
"I was not aware that I HAD one." Graham replies, thinking of none other than to rescue the fair damsel from the tower high.
"All of us have a destiny." The Pegasus replies, "Some are predestined, others are determined by choice. I believe yours to be of the latter."
Walking around, ever more curious, Graham asks, "How is it possible that I can stand upon thin air?"
"SUCH ARE NOT THE QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD BE ASKING." An unseen voice told Graham. Looking around, he sees a face form in the clouds, "YOU HAVE COME FOR THE AIR GEM... OR THE GROWTH GEM, AS IT WAS ONCE NAMED BY THE ANCIENTS. IT HAS NOT BEEN TERMED THUS WITHOUT REASON, FOR ONE WHO WOULD HAVE THE GEM AS HIS OWN MUST PROVE HIMSELF GROWN AND THUS WORTHY OF IT."
"Meaning no disrespect... ah... um..." Graham struggles.
"Cloud Spirit." The Pegasus says, coming to Graham's aide.
"Thank you." He says to the Pegasus, before turning his attention back to the entity, "You must agree, Cloud Spirit, that I AM a man fully grown, thus fulfilling your prerequisite."
A howling wind deafens Graham momentarily, though he feels nothing on his skin. The Cloud Spirit speaks again, this time a little more forcefully.
"IT IS NOT ENOUGH THAT YOU HAVE GROWN IN BODY. THAT MUCH IS EVIDENT. IT MUST BE PROVEN THAT YOU HAVE ALSO GROWN IN BOTH MIND AND SOUL. SO ON THESE, SHALL YOU BE TESTED."
"Tested?" Graham asks.
"THOSE WHO BEAR THE BURDEN OF KING ARE EXPECTED TO POSSESS CERTAIN QUALITIES. YOUR ACTIONS WILL BE JUDGED AGAINST THE WEIGHT OF THESE. IT SHALL BE SEEN WHETHER YOU ARE DESERVING OF YOUR TITLE. IT SHALL BE SEEN WHETHER YOU ARE WORTHY OF THE GROWTH GEM."
After a moment of silence, the Cloud Spirit intones...
"BEHOLD, YOUR FIRST TEST."
A mist form around Graham, clearing soon afterwards, as Graham finds himself in a familiar place.
"This... is Daventry!" Graham says, amazed, even more so that he is a child again! A slight dizziness overwhelms Graham for an instant. "How strange." Graham thinks, that he can no longer recall ANYTHING past this moment in time, like it was happening again... for the first time! Stranger still is that Graham is vaguely aware of the fact that he is undergoing some sort of test, but for what purpose is beyond his comprehension.
Even more surprising is that he is with Malvolio, his best friend from childhood, and that he and Graham are both deeply engrossed in a game of bat and ball. As Graham pitches, and Malvolio is at bat, one of Malvolio's swings stray and the ball flies over the castle gates, and (from the sound of it) landing on some poor person's head.
"Ouch!" the voice yells.
"Uh oh!" Graham says, worried, "That sounded like the king, Mal! What will we do?"
Given little time, King Edward, alive and well, not to mention a little angered, approaches the boys as Malvolio desperately tries to hide the bat behind his back.
"You there." The King says, his royal voice stopping the two boys from fleeing.
"Y-yes?" Graham nervously asks.
"Yes?" King Edward replies, losing a little more of his temper, although he always was more benevolent than his reputation implied when he was among the presence of children, no matter HOW mischievous they were, "Is that how you address your liege?"
"Ahh... um... no, Your M-Majesty, King Edward sir... I mean, Sire." Graham stammers, afraid of what may happen.
"Which of you two boys threw that ball..." King Edward asks, "the one that just happened to land on my head?" The boys look at one another, as the king grows more impatient, "I have asked you both a question. Silence is considered a response equal to impertinence."
Graham summons all of his courage and speaks up.
"Your Majesty, if you please..." Graham says, stepping forward, "it was I who hit the ball over the castle wall. It was my fault completely. Please do not punish my friend."
The king eyes young Graham carefully, making him wonder if he is in serious trouble.
"Sigh I would not punish one for something so trivial." The king replies, massaging the bridge of his nose with slight irritation, wishing that he had the patience equal to his beloved his Maylie, since his was already starting to thin, "However, I will see you play your game elsewhere... AWAY from here!"
"Y-yes, Sire!" Graham replies.
"One more thing, my young fellow." The king continues, "You have demonstrated good character today, by taking the blame for your friend." This surprises both boys, "The finest knights in this realm demonstrate their compassion by protecting others... even if that should mean putting themselves at risk. I find that to be a rare quality in the many I meet. When you have grown up, I hope to meet you again, perhaps in my service."
"Thank you, Your Majesty." Graham replies.
With that, the vision fades, as the Cloud Spirit speaks again...
"BEHOLD, YOUR SECOND TEST."
Much time has passed as Graham feels himself growing older, more so than before the tests began. Again, dizziness overcomes him as the memory of the previous test fades, and in its place, his mind is filled with the knowledge of everything that has since come to pass. This includes, unfortunately, the dreadful misfortunes which have plagued Daventry since the coming of the terrible three-headed dragon. To make things worse, Graham's seventeen-year-old daughter has been demanded as its latest sacrifice. In return, it will not harm the rest of the population... at least until its next demand was given. He would go forth to destroy the dragon himself; but alas, his aging heart, which grows weaker by the day, (ever since the day his infant son was kidnapped) no longer has the strength to dare undertake such a perilous quest. Never in his life has he felt so forlorn nor so frail. He fears that, given the choice, he would do anything to rectify the situation.
Looking over the landscape, Graham fails to notice a man draped in a black cloak enter the room via means of magical teleportation. The man walks up to King Graham.
"A charming view." The stranger says, "No wonder you come here so often."
"You!" King Graham sneers, "I will see you hanged for this intrusion. Guards! Guards!"
"Calling them will do you no good." The stranger smugly replies, "For even if they came, they will find their king speaking to only the air he breathes."
"A pox on thee! Who are you?"
"My name... my true name... has been heard by none for nigh on a millennium. It is enough that you know me as 'The Father.'"
"Then say what you have come to say, and begone!"
"Hmph You never were one for small talk." The Father replies.
"You cursed my family! As a result, that dragon is now loose upon the land and one of my children was kidnapped."
"Now that is not quite the truth."
"Do you deny your involvement?"
"Not at all. It is just that you have omitted so much."
"Speak and be gone!"
"Very well. I want your crown."
King Graham cannot believe what he has just heard. This vile creature has caused untold misery throughout his land for nearly eighteen years, and now he has infiltrated his castle just to ask that he hands over his authority to him? Of all the outrageous...
"Is that what this is all about?" King Graham demands, "You want to rule Daventry?"
Hahahaha! The Father laughs. "What would I want with a puny little kingdom, when in a few short years, I will have more power than Legenimor himself! No, I want only the thing you wear atop your head: your crown! It is an essential part of my plan. Without it, my efforts to prepare for the Ascension will have been in vain. I have waited far too long to be deterred from it now."
"If you need it that badly, you could have just taken it. You had plenty of opportunities." King Graham replies.
"Are you completely ignorant of the legends of your predecessors? None can possess the Crown of the First King unless it is given!"
"If you think for one moment that I would -"
"Before you speak further," the Father interrupts his Highness, before continuing, "consider this: In exchange for what I ask, I shall lift my curse and all that it entails from you and your blighted land. You shall have both it and your family restored in full. Minus your title, of course."
Graham's mind reels at these words. For almost two decades, a countless number of innocent people have suffered under the afflictions Daventry has had to endure. So many more people would continue to suffer indefinitely, notwithstanding the pain he feels over his own family's misfortune. With a simple statement, he could put an end to it all.
"To give you my crown would signify a change of leadership." King Graham somberly replies, "So says the law of this land. It also says that the crown is to be worn only by those with the highest regard and intent for Daventry. So, to give it to such a vile being as you would betray the honor and memory of all the past kings who have worn it. No! I will not do it!"
"Not even for the sake of your family?"
With great pain and remorse, King Graham replies, "There are some principles for which even one's own family must be sacrificed."
The man appraises Graham, as a scientist would a unique specimen.
"What an intriguing set of morals you have, King Graham." The stranger replies, "I almost look forward to the time when you will put aside your obligations here and seek me out. I have foreseen that we shall meet again."
With that, the vision fades, as the Cloud Spirit speaks once more...
"BEHOLD, YOUR THIRD TEST."
Once again, Graham feels himself age. He is now many years older, though still, thankfully, King of Daventry. As before, the knowledge of the previous tests ebbs from his mind. This time, however, it is filled with a greater knowledge of all that has come to pass thus far.
Many years have passed. His children, once heirs to his thrown, have forged their own paths in other kingdoms. Fortunately, chance has seen fit to fill the vacuum. Following the restoration of the Mask of Eternity, Daventry now has a new champion.
"How do you feel?" the now elderly King Graham asks.
"I am deeply honored, Sire." Conner, a once lowly tanner and painter who, defeating the evil wizard Lucreto, "saved" Daventry and its people from an eternity encased in stone, replies.
"All right. Now how do you really feel?"
"Scared out of my wits, Sire."
They stop walking, as Graham smiles, feeling the lines in his face stretch. He hopes that he will become used to it, when the true time comes.
"You know what they have been saying..." King Graham says, "about my decision, that is."
"The people question my ability to perform the duties, when I have another higher obligation. I believe that I can attend to both with the upmost equity."
"You do not deny that this obligation may arise at any moment, perhaps taking you away from this country at a time of great need?"
"Of course not, Sire. But I shall deal with that troll, as they say, when I cross that bridge."
"And there is the matter of you not being of royal birth. That does not sit comfortably with some of the nobles." King Graham replies, still aware that even he himself, as well as his loving wife, were also born as commoners themselves...
"The qualities of truth, light, and order can shine from even the most impoverished of souls. Nobility is defined through one's actions, not one's lineage, Your Majesty."
King Graham cannot help but smirk. For a man who had once lived as a peasant, this man speaks extremely well.
The Throne Room is filled to capacity with the men and women of Daventry and the surrounding area. They rise as King Graham approaches his throne, awaiting his words.
"I have carefully thought over the matter put before me." King Graham addresses the crowd, "It is true that I no longer have a residing heir to carry on in my place. However, I cannot place the future of this kingdom in the hands of who, while possessing great skills, courage, and virtues, may not be able to serve her with singular devotion." The look on Connor's face, and the gasping and murmuring of the gathered crowd speak volumes about King Graham's decision. "Go back to your village, Connor."
"Y-Yes, Sire." Connor replies, crestfallen as he leaves the throne room, forced to continue his life as a mere commoner. Despite his gracious acceptance, Graham can sense that Connor has been dealt a rather severe mortal blow.
Still, for Connor, all it not (completely) lost - one face among the crowd rushes out behind him to comfort the fractured soul after his greatest morale defeat. Sarah, the village's seamstress and Conner's closest and dearest friend, neighbor and confidant (and, according to some of the more "ill-mannered" gossips of their community, (the girl's own mother included) lover) was there, more than willing to help pick up the pieces...
The vision fades once again, as Graham finds himself standing in front of the Cloud Spirit. He even begins to notice that the world around him is starting to get pretty dark as night begins to fall...
"YOU HAVE DEMONSTRATED SOME UNDERSTANDING OF COMPASSION, HONOR, AND LOYALTY. THESE ATTRIBUTES TRANSCEND THE MIND, AND SPEAK OF THE SOUL WITHIN YOU. GROWTH CONTINUES UNABATED, THROUGHOUT THE LIVES OF ALL LIVING THINGS. WHILE YOU STILL HAVE MUCH TO LEARN, YOU WILL CONTINUE TO GROW IN ALL WAYS. YOU ARE JUDGED WORTHY OF THE AIR AND GROWTH GEM."
The Cloud Spirit opens it mighty maw, and with a gust of wind, a green gem appears. As Graham approaches, still cautious as he walks on clouds, he takes the Growth Gem into his possession.
As he feels the knowledge of the last test fade from his mind, the cloud beneath his feet begins to evaporate! At that moment, Graham realized that he needed to get out of there, and FAST!
The Pegasus offers Graham one last ride to the surface. When his wild flight finally comes to an end; he hopes that it will be quite a while before he has to take to the air again. Mankind was not meant to take to the skies. Still, riding on the back of a Pegasus, as well as on top of a magic flying carpet were both far better than hanging from the talons of a giant condor...
"Where would you like me to land?" the Pegasus asks, hovering over the crossroads.
"On the ground would be fine."
Doing as requested, Graham dismounts.
"Take this sugar cube." The Pegasus says, "It will protect you against the poisonous growth of this land." As Graham takes the Pegasus' gift, the mystical horse takes flight once more, "Fare thee well!" It says, taking to the stars.
As dusk sets in, and the pallid moon rises above the darkened horizon, Graham recalls the Door of Destiny's words regarding the third Gem.
Through swampy mire...
In lone dark castle...
Then he remembers the great King Neptune's disquiet reluctance to speak of Kolyma's lord. Graham senses a growing unease that this final Gem may not be the easiest to acquire.
Walking east of the crossroads, lured by the sound of ringing church bells, Graham finds a cathedral. Since the doors were (surprisingly) unlocked and unbarred, Graham steps inside. There, he notices a Bible at the edge of one of the pews. Looking it over, the Bible appears to be several decades old. Opening it, he finds an otherwise blank page at the front that has been written on. The date of the page is dated over twenty years ago.
To all those who have heard the Word,
We are the chosen few, blessed by the Spirits of the Wild. Destined for greatness, concealed by the cloth, there is but one challenge we must overcome before our future can be set in stone.
The simple people of Kolyma still cling to the memory of their former ruler. Even now, years after his fate's dark turn, they retain their hope that he will not forsake them. As long as this is so, our goal cannot be obtained.
So, my Brothers, it is our duty to see that the land is cleansed of its blight. Do not fear our enemy; our Faith, Purpose, and Power will guide us to the future we were promised.
A path has been found to him, oh Brothers! Let him hear the warning howls. The cloth will be lifted for all time, and our Songs will echo the end of him, his influence... and his family.
Our time is at hand.
Graham returns the Bible to where he found it, where also notices that a page from the Bible has fallen onto the floor. Picking up the fallen page, he reads words that appear to have been written fairly recently:
Something Wicked Started War
Shame Nobody Ever Saw
Feeling humbled as he approaches the alter, Graham kneels down before it to pray, rising again after a few short moments. The nearby monk stirs, stands, and turns to face him.
"Father, I go now to a place of darkness." Graham says with the upmost respect, "While I am stout of heart, the path laid down before me is unclear. I seek only the knowledge that my passage be illuminated by Heavenly favor, and a prayer that I may safely make it through."
The monk gives Graham a reassuring smile and pats him on the shoulder. He then lifts a silver cross from around his neck and places it in Graham's hands.
"Thank you." Graham replies.
"You are welcome, my child." The monk replies.
"You can talk?" Graham asks, surprised.
"But I thought monks were forbidden from speaking."
"Not all churches follow the same rules. And this church... is quite unique."
"Really? How so?"
The monk just smiles placidly at him in return.
"About this crucifix..." Graham says, looking it over.
"I believe you will find the cross to be of immense value. It has come to us at a huge price."
"It was expensive?" Graham asks - most of what this monk has been saying fails to add up.
"I mean that it has cost us more than any value, to be in possession of it."
After a slight, uncomfortable pause, "If I may ask..." Graham asks, "why is it that you only open your church at dusk?"
"We find the late hours more favorable."
"Surely then, you would not have many in your congregation."
"Yes, that is true."
After another pause in the conversation, Graham inquires, "What do you know of the count?"
"Only that he is a heathen. A blasphemer." The monk sneers, "You serve God well by going there, child. Bless you." The monk smiles at Graham, then turns back to kneel before the alter, resuming his prayers.
With that, Graham leaves the church, certain that the spiritual presence he had felt while inside the monastery was anything BUT that of God's. At the nearby crossroads, without warning, a pair of wolves dart out of the dark forest, dashing towards him. Assuming a defensive posture, with his hand on the handle of his sword, Graham prepares for the worst, only to have both wolves pass by him as if he was never even there to begin with. Either those wolves have just eaten, or are on the prowl of something more enticing than human flesh. Curious as to why they did not attack, Graham decides to follow them.
Back at the church, Graham is shocked to see the monk standing outside the church as the two wolves approach him. He's about to yell out a word of warning to the monk, but the words die in his throat as the man steps forward, patting the wolves' heads.
"No, my brothers." Graham hears the monk say, from a safe distance, "We must not hurt him. Not yet. He will go to the heathen's abode. He will do what needs to be done."
One of the wolves whimper.
"What if he does not?" the monk asks in reply, "Then, my brothers, we will complete the task before us... the one we began many years ago." With those last three words, the monk's voice grows more demonic with each syllable.
As the monk stares at the full moon, a hideous transformation slowly begins to take place before Graham's astonished eyes. He quickly moves away from the church, his heart racing faster with each step. He has a good idea about what would happen once the moon comes out in full, and he does not want to be anywhere near there when it does. One thing was for sure... he and his new bride are not going to be married in THAT church.
Leaving the crossroads, Graham leaves the Wierwood Forest altogether, finding himself back at that small cabin. Allowed inside, he is greeted by a sickly elderly lady, lying in bed.
Taking off his hat in the presence of a lady, she speaks.
"Oh sir!" she speaks in a frail voice, "Have you seen my little granddaughter? She ventured to the town to buy food for me but has not yet returned. I fear she may be in peril; the forest is not safe at night."
Sighing, Graham fears for little Possum's life as he leaves the cabin in search for her.
In the middle of the Wierwood Forest, south of the crossroads leading into town, Graham hears the sound of a child sobbing. Following the noise, Graham recognizes the child as Possum.
Placing a comforting hand on the little girl's shoulder, he asks, concerned, "Are you all right? What happened?"
Though her eyes are blurry and bloodshot from her tears, she recognizes Graham's strong, kind voice, "I went into town to buy some chicken soup for my grandma." She said in between tears, "I always try to reach home before dark, but this eve I lost my way and was... was... att-atta-"
"Attacked?" Graham asked, growing more concerned, "A wolf attacked you?"
"No. Not by a wolf. A dwarf."
For a moment, Graham is not sure that he had heard the little girl correctly.
"A dwarf, did you say?" Graham asks.
"Uh-huh. He jumped out at me, took my food, and then ran away."
"Listen." Graham instructs, "I will go and try to find this dwarf that you say stole your food. You get back to your grandma. Understood?"
Possum nods, mouthing a soft, almost silent 'thank you', as heads back home.
Returning to the crossroads, Graham vaguely remembers seeing, what appeared to be, a door inside one of the forest's many trees. Finding it, he raps on the tree house door and waits for a response, but there is none. Trying again, there was still nothing. A third time, Graham hears stirring from the inside as a faint light could be seen through the bottom of the door. Stepping aside, the door opens with a loud and long creak. Graham watches from his hiding spot as the little man runs out of the doorway, which has been built into the massive tree. He surmises that he had found the culprit's house. The vague aroma of chicken soup confirms it. "That fiend!" Graham thinks, as a scowl crosses his face.
As the dwarf runs off, he leaves the door open; while Graham cautiously opens it further, looking over his shoulder as the hinges creak. Seeing the dwarf was nowhere in sight, Graham breaths a brief sigh of relief as he enters the tree. Now for phase two of Graham's rescue mission...
Descending a ladder down into the tree's interior, Graham wastes no time in grabbing the bubbling, boiling pot of chicken soup from the fireplace's cauldron; while there, he opens one of the dwarf's trunks, where he finds a number of items that the dwarf has obviously stolen and stashed away. Among them were some gold coins displaying the distinctive face of the First King. These coins could have only been taken from the magic chest of Daventry.
Leaving the way he came, Graham notices a small blade sticking out of the wooden tree stump table. He scoffs, "He calls that little thing a knife?" he thought, "That one I found underneath a rock that one time, now THAT was a knife." Walking outside, Graham hears the latch fall into place as the door closes behind him.
...MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE HUMBLE COTTAGE...
"Welcome. Come in, please." The elderly lady says to Graham, seeing him at the doorway, "Possum told me to expect you."
Nodding, Graham takes the, now cold, bowl of soup to the home's crackling fire, reheating it. Once it is ready, he removes it, and offers it to Possum's Grandmother. He introduces himself, and waits courteously while the frail, elderly lady eats the nourishing meal. When she is finished, she sets the now empty bowl aside and turns her attention towards her guest.
"If you would like to speak with me for a while, I would welcome your company." She says, "A person should never turn away a visitor, especially when she reaches the twilight of her life."
Graham cannot help but feel a sense of finality in the old woman's words.
"You must have something in return for your kindness." The elderly lady says, "You did not need to risk your safety for an old, worn-out woman like myself. Look under the bed. You should find something to keep you a little warmer on a cold night like this."
Knowing it was futile to refuse; Graham peers underneath the bed and finds a thick, black cloak. Lying atop of it is a beautiful, ruby-encrusted ring. He picks both items up with reverence.
"I could not possible take these fine things from you." Graham replies.
"Oh please." The elderly lady replies, pleading, "I want you to have them. Nights in Kolyma are cold, believe me. As for the ring... sigh well, perhaps it is better that I do not have it to remind me."
"As you wish." Graham replies. Then, looking at the sleeping youth in the other bed, "You have a charming young granddaughter." He says, complimenting his host.
The grandmother graciously smiles at Graham. "She is a treasure to me." She says, "I would do anything to ensure that no harm comes to her."
"If I may inquire," Graham asks, albeit cautiously, "what became of her parents?"
The elderly grandmother frowns, and her eyes darken for a moment, before she forces a melancholy smile to her face.
"They were lost to us many years ago." She says, "I am afraid dear Possum never really knew her parents."
"It must have been a daunting task, raising a child by yourself. Especially at your... ah... I mean..." Graham mentions, before catching his mistake.
"At my age?" the elderly lady replies, without a hint of personal offense in her voice, "heheh I am certainly not as young as I used to be, and there is no shame it that. I have tried to raise her as best I could, to keep her safe and well. However, I feel that as of late the reverse is becoming truer."
"If you please, I was hoping you might tell me the cloak and ring's origin."
The elderly woman closes her eyes, as if the memory she seeks is painful to her senses.
"They were my husband's." She says, "He was a proud man. The last of his line. His family had been rich... a great deal of old money, you might say. They lived in that castle you might have seen to the north. Its location on that island is evidence of how much they valued their privacy. sigh He was a good man, my husband. He took care of me. Certainly, he had his strange habits. Most men do, if you will pardon me for saying so."
Graham smiled, lightly chuckling, knowing of such 'strange habits' those in his employ back in Daventry have accused him of having - like thinking out loud to himself, especially when others were around, for example...
"I suspect that he practiced magic, though I could never catch him in the act." She continued, "He would frequently journey afar, taking that black cloak with him wherever he went, to places he would not talk about. He said that it represented something important to a certain group of people, and that I was never to mention it to anyone. But he was always there for me. Always. Until... that fateful night...
We had been married just over a year, and I was heavy with child. We were both out walking in the Wierwood Forest late one night. The air was warm, and in our youth we paid little attention to the world and its many dangers. Besides, there was a full moon; we could see clearly enough.
A shadow passed over us. We looked up, thinking it might have been a stray cloud. It was not. Descending upon us like a demon, was the largest, most hideous bat I had ever seen! Its fangs were barred, and it dove straight for me! I must have screamed. My husband flung himself in front of me, to protect me. He swung his arms about frantically in hopes of warding the horrid thing away. Perhaps he was trying to cast a spell, but could not recall how in his panic. It paid him no heed, and would not be deterred. It swooped again and again, relentlessly.
At one point, my husband's hand must have clipped the bat's wing, because it lost control and crashed into his shoulder. He tried to wrest the foul creature away... but then he shrieked suddenly. The horrid thing had bitten him!
He never did recover from that incident. He just faded with each passing hour. Within two days of the attack, my husband had died. We buried him on his family's plantation, on the island.
Sometimes, when I sleep, I can feel him watching over me. Guarding me, protecting me. I think he is waiting for my time to come, so we can always be together." She says. The elderly lady seems to be dozing off at this point; Graham can barely hear her final words. "I miss him so."
Telling her story has clearly taken a great deal out of her. Graham watches the elderly woman for a moment and notices her labored breathing as she sleeps. Despite the little girl's tireless daily efforts, there was nothing more to be done. Though Graham wants to stay with her, even take care of the girl once the tragic, eminent event occurs, he leaves - he still has things to take care of, before the Granthithor returns for him and his bride.
...MEANWHILE, AT THE WITCH HAGATHA'S CAVE...
"Sister Hagatha, my dear." The voice of The Father could be heard over her crystal ball, "Tell me you have good news."
"The king has arrived in Kolyma, Father." She replies.
"That is not what I meant."
"Yes... well, he appears to be quite resourceful. It seems his reputation was not totally exaggerated."
"He's... still ALIVE!?"
"For now." Hagatha replies, "But that will soon change, I think. The king has discovered that one of the Gems he seeks is in the possession of a colleague of ours. Do you remember Caldaur?"
"Yes." The Father replies, though not all that pleased, "Is he... still trustworthy?"
"Totally! Still sharp, and there is no questioning his loyalty." She says, "My humblest apologies, Father, but... would it not have been simpler for you to have dealt with Graham personally?"
"FOOL! Imagine the ensuing chaos, were Daventry's king murdered in his own land! How then would I be able to search for the Item?"
"I see." Hagatha replies.
"Failure is NOT an option!"
"Keep me informed... Preferably of good King Graham's death." With that, the vision of The Father disappears from the witch's crystal ball.
...AT THAT TIME...
Graham exits the elderly lady's cottage, placing the ring on his finger and slinging the cloak over his back, fastening it around his neck. Making his way back towards the north, Graham passes by the witch's cave, dismayed that the skulls he had shattered earlier have been replaced.
About to pass by, Graham heard this strange, completely unfamiliar noise coming from inside, making him pause. Going back into a defensive posture, his hand on his sword's handle, ready to fight back whatever beast was making that noise, Graham saw these two bright lights, parallel in position, coming closer and closer at a very uncomfortable rate. Like a deer, he could not help but stare at these lights in curious wonder. That is, until (after he jumps out of the way) he saw this strange... thing emerge from the cave at faster than lightning speed. Until the day he dies, he would never forget what he had just seen: a long, black, menacing, horseless carriage, none of which he has ever seen before, or (hopefully) ever will again. It was like something that would be driven by the Devil himself, (which is not at all surprising, considering who lives inside that cave) and it even appeared to have been propelled by the fires of Hell: its blaze was shooting out of the strange contraption's rear end. He could not see who, or what, was driving it, but whoever it was, he was leaving in an awful hurry. The strangest thing about this mysterious vessel was that it had the shape of a bat... he was surprised that this devil's carriage -or Bat-Mobile if you will, given the strange device's otherwise unique physical appearance- did not take to the air, instead of blending into the night as it drove off.
After the shock of seeing what he has just seen wears off, Graham continues through the swampy bogs and quagmires of Kolyma, exploring unfamiliar territory outside the Wierwood Forest, apparently walking around in circles until he sees the castle in the distance.
Making his way there, he comes to a caped and hooded boatman holding a sickle. Swallowing his fear, Graham speaks as he approaches.
"Boatman," He commands, "I need passage." The boatman is silent in reply. "I said..." Graham continues, before being interrupted.
"I heard." The boatman moans as its voice chills Graham to the bone. It speaks with a deep, resonating bitterness. Graham cannot make out a great deal of this stranger's face, but what he can see has the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. "In life, I would row this boat for the Master." It continues, "Long ago was my untimely death in these waters, but still I remember many things. Laughter... Tears... Joy... Pain..."
Gathering his courage, Graham approaches the boatman further, handing him the coin he had found in that dwarf's chest. The boatman accepts his payment and motions for him to climb onto the boat. He severs the ties holding the boat to shore as he uses his sickle as an ore to row Graham across the calm yet deadly waters of the toxic lake towards the island on the other side.
Stepping off the boat, Graham can smell the faint poisonous vapors hanging along the pathway up to the castle. Fortunately, at the island's shore, the poison has little to no effect. Eating the sugar cube given to him by the Pegasus, he feels a unique sense of invincibility. Walking up the curving path, the sharp thorns of the poisonous bushes brush against his skin. However, instead of feeling intense pain, he only experiences a slight tingling sensation. Evidently the sugar cube has done its job.
Approaching the ghosts while wearing the black cloak, they seem to notice him as they begin to drift away towards the cemetery. Seeing the gate locked, Graham sees a cross-shaped keyhole. Getting an idea, he pushes the crucifix into the opening. To his pleasant surprise, it fits! Hearing a click, the door unlocks. Pushing the heavy wooden door open, Graham takes a deep breath as he nervously steps inside the castle entrance.
The moment he enters the great hall, Graham begins to shiver uncontrollably, and not just from the cold - this place has an air of death hanging around it wherever he goes. He suddenly feels desperate to get whatever it is that he came for and anxious to leave as quickly as possible.
Taking one of the two stairways, Graham enters one of the rooms, taking a stray shovel into his possession. He also holds the candle he received from that mother pumpkin up to a blazing torch, the only source of light in this one chamber; the wick catches the flame, and now the candle is now lit, providing an effective light source for the castle's less than sparsely lit areas...
Backtracking to the main hall, Graham takes the other stairwell, passing through the castle's dining room, leading him to a dark, descending staircase. Fortunately, the candle provides just enough light to see where he is going.
The stone spiral staircase leads him to a chamber concealing a lone coffin; Graham removes the black cloak as a rat scoots past him. Nervously, he lifts the heavy lid of the elegant coffin. Peering inside the red satin interior, Graham sees that it is unoccupied as a great sense of relief washes over him. However, as he prepares to look inside the coffin...
"King Graham, I presume." A voice says, catching Graham off guard.
Turning his heel towards the direction of the noise, Graham sees the count standing in front of the archway, blocking his only exit from this dismal room. His skin is pale, his eyes jet-black. He wears a black cloak nearly identical to the one that he possesses.
"You know me?" Graham asks, using all of his will to hide his fear.
"Ah, yes indeed." The count replies, "Sister Hagatha alerted me of your arrival, dear King."
Desperate to stall for time, Graham queries the count.
"Sister Hagatha, you say?" he asks, "Who is she?"
The count regards Graham with a suspicious glare.
"Though I suspect you already know the answer, Hagatha is a charming mage who does as she pleases in this land."
"Strange, I was not aware a new ruler has been elected."
"Do not be foolish!" the count replies, snapping back, "Hagatha has no interest in the politics of this wretched place! Nor do I, in point of fact. Death tends to diminish one's taste for power. No, at present she is interested in one thing... as am I. Your destruction!"
The count no longer appears interested in humoring Graham's delay tactics any further. In the blink of an eye, the count flies by, slamming Graham against the castle walls. The count has Graham pinned so well that he cannot move a muscle, much less put up a defense. Graham can feel the count's iron, cold hand on his throat. He barely has seconds to spare before the inevitable happens.
With great difficulty, Graham manages to loosen the ruby ring from his finger as it drops to the floor. The count's eyes quickly dart to it, and then they flash angrily back at him.
"Where did you get that?" the count demands to know.
"The elderly woman..." Graham struggles to explain, "who lives in a house to the south of here... near the beach... She gave it to me... for helping her."
The count regards Graham for a moment. His dark eyes bore unendingly into his, and Graham feels as if his very soul is bare.
"What do you know of her?" the count asks.
"She is... not well..." Graham explains further.
"I know that!" the count snaps back, "Do you think I am not aware of that?"
Graham starts sweating profusely; hopefully, this vampire did not find the odor appetizing.
"Night is the most dangerous of times for my mortal family." The count continues, "I have kept vigil over my wife for many years, so that from the darkness no harm would come to her. When her time comes, we will be together... forever."
"I think... tonight will be... the night..." Graham struggles to say, "I have seen her this very eve. I did what I could to help her... but... I do not think it was good enough..."
A slight pause occurs before the count lowers Graham to the floor. Then, with a raise of his arms and a resulting puff of smoke, he transforms into a bat and flies off. As Graham watches the giant bat fly out of the room, he realizes with dread that the count has confiscated his crucifix. Without it, he is trapped inside the castle! "Now what am I going to do?" he thinks.
Looking into the satin-lined coffin, Graham removes the pillow, finding what he has been looking for - the Death Gem! Breathing deeply, he reaches out and takes the stone in his hands. It is ice cold to the touch, but he does not care. This is the last thing he needs to unlock the Door of Destiny. Now all he has to do is get out of here!
Leaving the count's coffin chamber, passing through the dining hall and taking that other stairway in the main hall, Graham arrives at a dead end high in a windowed turret. Seeing no other escape route, Graham climbs onto the ledge and carefully lowers himself outside, hoping to find a decent foothold. From there, it was quite a long ways down...
Outside, a storm develops, making the descent all the more difficult. Carefully, with each tiny step, Graham makes his climb down, knowing each misstep would cause his untimely demise.
Suddenly, midway down, Graham hears a swishing noise in his ears. It is soon joined by two others. Instinctively, Graham tries to brush away whatever it is that was making the noise; but in doing so, loses his hold on the bricks and falls backwards. Time slows as he falls as Graham's world turns black...
However, what keeps him alive is the vision of the lady he has set out to rescue from tower high. She is standing at the tower window... looking out... singing...
When I first saw you
I knew that it was true
There is a love between us
That will not be torn in two
Once awakened from my sleep
I will smile at you and speak
We will both walk out the Door
And be together, forever more...
Stirring, Graham finds himself in the castle's dining hall, apparently alive, well, and still human. Strange, though, an elaborate meal has been set before him.
"Our guest has awoken, my love." A woman's voice says. Graham finds a countess has joined the count.
"Ah... good evening, dear King. I do not believe we have been properly introduced." The count adds, "I am Count Caldaur, former Lord of the Realm of Kolyma." Then, motioning to the vampiress sitting across from him, "May I present my wife, Countess Lavidia."
"A pleasure to see you again." She says. The beautiful creature to his other side - it was hard to believe that SHE was once that sickly elderly woman he had met earlier...
"In gratitude to you for alerting me to my wife's grave condition, I took the liberty of preparing you a dish." The count says, "I thought you might be hungry after your harrowing adventure at my window. You will forgive us if we do not join you. Our tastes differ from yours. Do they not, my darling?"
Graham shutters to think what "different tastes" actually means, but for some reason he notes that he can no longer hear any rats squeaking in the distant. Knowing well that he was at his hosts' mercy, Graham felt it wise not to offend them by bringing the subject up.
"Indeed." Lavidia replies, "So much to become accustomed to."
"You shall have all the time that the world has to share to grow accustomed to such things." Caldaur replies to his wife's comment, "Well, perhaps thirty years." His tone grows more somber, "Should The Father locate the Item by then, there might not be enough world left for anyone afterwards."
"Has this Father to do with why you frequently went abroad," Lavidia asks, growing more stern and wrathful, not liking what she is hearing, "always with that cloak of yours?"
"Most certainly." The count replies, uncomfortable with this "Father's" name being mentioned, however he tries to maintain his dignified composure, "But I think that my affiliation with him and his Association has come to an end." Though he tries to hide it, Caldaur's obvious distaste for the entity shines through, "My obligation to them took me away from my beloved too often. I do not wish to repeat my mistake."
With a sly smile and a relaxing posture, Lavidia replies, "You are forgiven, my love."
Caldaur appears to obviously be relieved by knowing this. It seems apparent to Graham as to which one of his two hosts REALLY wears the pants in this marriage. However, their attention, which has seemed to have momentarily wavered, now redirects back to him.
"Well, well, well..." the count says, "What to do with this one."
"What WERE you going to do with him?" the countess asks, concerned.
"Kill him." The count replies, getting shocked glares from both Graham and Lavidia, "I had quite clear instructions from Hagatha, who had apparently received them from The Father himself."
"But if you are not, as you say, affiliated with his 'Association' any more..." the countess pleads, although knowing her place. At least they both share a knowing smile.
"Tell us, King Graham," Countess Lavidia asks, "why are you here in Kolyma?"
Graham takes a deep breath, trying to ignore the fact that he is the only one capable of doing so, and relate his story of the vision in the magic mirror and his quest to find the three Gems of Nature. The count and countess exchange cryptic smiles.
"Romancing the stones." The countess says.
"Indeed." The count replies, as they both laugh at their own private joke, one which Graham does not even begin, let alone pretend, to understand.
"So you search for the one with which you would share the rest of your life." The count surmises, "On that I cannot fault you, nor on your intentions here. Therefore, I can forgive the trespassing. However, there is the matter of the Dark Gem you wish to remove from my castle." With a wave of his arm, the Dark Gem, or Death Gem as it is sometimes called, appears out of thin air, wafting down to the dining room table. "I place a deal before you." The count says, "I am looking for a magnificent sapphire-encrusted tiara. It is a valuable family heirloom, and has been on this estate for centuries. This castle and its estate are quite old, though. It could be virtually anywhere, in any number of hiding places. I suspect there are many that even I am not aware of. I wish to present this tiara to my wife, as a gift to commemorate the eternity we shall spend together." This causes the countess to blush, if that were even possible for a vampire. "If you can find it and bring it to me before sunrise," the count continues, after winking at his newly reunited wife, "then I will give you the Gem you seek, and your freedom." With a wave, the count sends the gem back to its hiding place; no doubt a different one from underneath the pillow in the count's personal coffin.
Either way, Graham nods, unable to believe that he as virtually been ushered away from death's door just so he can run an errand for a couple of vampires. However, he does NOT want to think about the consequences if he fails to meet the deadline.
Having lost whatever remained of his appetite, Graham excuses himself from the dining table; however, he takes a robust ham along, just in case...
Entering the main hall, Graham takes a corridor, finding himself in the castle's library. In there, he sees a young woman sitting on the dusty floor. She has a book opened in her lap, entitled Little Red Riding Hood.
"I wish I could read this story." She says, mournfully, "All the pretty words."
"The book tells the story of a young girl who met a wolf in the forest."
The young woman's attention snaps up; her black eyes drill into Graham's. He gasps as he realizes he is looking at yet another vampire. "Just how many has the count made tonight?" Graham thinks.
The young woman's lips transform from hungry to, fortunately, pleasant recognition.
"So you are the guest of my grandfather's house." She says, "I was hoping I would meet you again!"
The woman is startlingly beautiful, but in an eerie, unnatural way. Still, he finds himself unable to speak for a moment. 'She DOES look somewhat familiar...' Graham thinks, 'But from where?'
"Oh," she says with despair, "my handsome gentleman does not recognize me?"
"Um... should I?" Graham asks.
With growing anger, she jogs his memory. "You remember - the basket, the soup..."
With a start, Graham recognizes the young woman, who has obviously grown and matured considerably since he has last seen her. The little girl, Possum, has been completely transformed into the woman he sees before him - she has traded her small ruby cloak for a dazzling satin robe of the same color.
"Possum?" Graham asks, not believing the sight set before his astonished eyes.
Giggling at Graham's awkwardness, she asks, with a sly smile, "Are you unhappy with my appearance?"
"No!" Graham replies, "It is just that you... have me at a disadvantage. I do not know your real name."
"Anastasia." She replies.
"A beautiful name."
"Yes. It was one of the few things my parents left me before they died." She says, "They are probably buried somewhere on this island, as a matter of fact. What do you seek here?"
Graham explains his, so far, unsuccessful attempt to locate the tiara, as well as about the Gems of Nature, the Door of Destiny, and what he hopes to find on the other side. Though this news obviously saddens her, she appears thoughtful for a moment, and then she suddenly snaps her fingers. (Deep down, she knew that it would be selfish of her, let alone futile, to want someone she can never possible have. With great reluctance, and an even greater show of true maturity, she decides to help him out in any way she could. Besides, keeping him for herself would grow boring and depressing after a while when the feelings she has for him were never going to be returned to her in the same manner - especially when they would have been spending an eternity together...) A discarded pile of books shift aside from the floor, and a single black book is revealed underneath. She appraises the black book with indignant incomprehension, and then she holds it out toward Graham. He then takes the book from Anastasia's hand.
"I do not suppose that has anything to do with it," Anastasia says, as Graham takes the book, "but it must be about something important."
Opening the book, Graham is surprised to discover not pages, but a hollowed out section, in which sits a silver key. Examining it, the key's handle resembles the shape of a sleeping child. There also appears to be something written on the back cover of the book. In the hollow, Graham can see that the inside book cover has been written on. Some words have been scrawled onto the paper. They are faded, but still mostly legible.
If treasure you seek dear to my heart,
Tales of fiction is where you must start
Find first the beauty, with step-sisters two
Then visit the huts that the big bad wolf blew
The girl with no flock will usher your way,
To the little old man who spins gold out of hay.
Those two Star-Crossed Lovers shall be your last guide,
They will lead you to riches that pirates did hide.
What you earnestly seek, shall now truly be yours,
Though get it part wrong and you will be greeted by 'Maws'.
Walking over to a long bookcase at the end of the room, Graham reaches for the following storybooks: "Cinderella", "The Three Little Pigs", "Little Bo Peep", "Rumplestiltskin", "Romeo and Juliet". Just then, Graham notices a new book appearing on the middle shelf, a copy of "Treasure Island". Picking it up, Graham notices that, strangely, it has a lock binding it shut - the key he was given earlier in that little black book seems to be the perfect fit...
Skimming through the now unlocked book, Graham finds a map that has been sketched through the last page. Close scrutiny reveals that it is a top-down layout of the castle and its surrounding grounds. According to the map, the tiara has been buried near one of the graves. Graham shutters, hoping that this is not going to be a case of digging all night while trying to avoid unearthed zombies. There was also a piece of writing near the bottom of the page:
"A date of fate can be found with a first, a second and a double of nothing."
Leaving, Anastasia stops him.
"I wish only one thing, as payment for helping you find that book." She says.
"Of course." Graham honestly replies.
"Would you be so kind as to take this bracelet and place it on my mother's grave?" she says, handing him the small trinket, "I believe she wanted me to have it while I was alive. Now... it seems no longer appropriate to keep it."
With an understanding nod, he takes the bracelet with him.
"Thank you." she says, "I must retire now. It will not be long before sunrise. Goodnight, Graham."
"Oh... wait." Anastasia replies, "One more thing before you go..." she approaches Graham, placing a light, chaste kiss upon his lips, "Thank you... for everything you have done for me... and my family."
Leaving the castle, thankful that he is still immune to the poisons that hang in the air around the estate, making his way to the graveyard; there, he sees the two ghosts, who were hours earlier guarding the castle gates. Holding up the bracelet, the ghosts appear to relax slightly. Graham wonders if it is now safe to approach them and enter the cemetery. Doing so, Graham notices the pair of grave markers they are hovering over...
Lord Herbert & Lady Lillian
B. 1648 - D. 1668
Loving parents of Anastasia.
Beloved son and daughter-in-law
of Count Caldaur and Countess Lavidia
Our enemies, be warned:
Their untimely deaths shall be avenged.
Graham places the bracelet on the grave as it immediately sinks down into the earth. The ghosts do not respond at first; but then one of them drifts towards him. It nods, almost sadly. The ghosts seem to want to say something, but they appear unable to do so. Its face, though transparent and hazy, is lined with grief and torment. Its facial features waver into focus. This ghost (that approached Graham) is female. The other ghost, this one a male, joins her.
"We understand that our daughter will never be joining us now." The male ghost struggles to say, "No longer do we need wait for her. Now we journey to the Realm of the Dead, where its Lord waits to judge us. Farewell."
Graham bows his head and crosses his heart and says a silent prayer out of respect as both ghosts waft into the afterlife. While looking downward, Graham notices that a beautiful gold ring now lies at his feet. Lifting the gold ring from the ground, Graham carefully places it in his pocket.
This cemetery is one of the creepiest he has ever seen. Graham could not imagine it looking remotely pleasant, even in broad daylight. An icy wind pierces through his clothes, and he shudders involuntarily. Looking around for the proper grave, he found some interesting epitaphs...
Mary Ann Drinkwater
B. 1230 - D. 1266
They had traveled safely for many a day
Until crossing a bridge along their way
She lost her balance, and fell to her fate
He tried to save her, but it was too late.
B. 995 - D. 1020
"The noise," said he, "is far too loud,"
As he discerned the maddened crowd.
The mob broke in, then he did scream,
"I would rather this a sight unseen!"
They strung him up, from toe to head
And as for after, enough has been said
B. 1195 - D. 1265
He had put her to bed
After she had had supper
But forgot next morning
To stir and wake up her
B. 1255 - D. 1300
This young man sought to be holy
To save himself from being lowly
He joined the hood and wore the cloth
Eventually died from professional sloth
Count Bartholomew Scrooge
B. 1017 - D. 1101
To warnings he would pay no mind
Of his failing, ailing health
His relatives, they would bide for time
After all, he had great wealth
B. 1354 - D. 1411
He would not rise
From out of bed
Not even to sooth
His aching head
He should have heeded
What the Doctor said
But it is too late
For now he is dead
B. '35 - D. '77
There once lived a man who had a great voice
Or at least the ladies thought so.
Though many have tried to imitate him
There can only be one that we know.
If these words ring true it may certainly be
That beneath you assuredly lies
The singer who lived and who sang like a king
Has indeed met his maker and died
Boris and Olga
There was an old couple named Olga and Stovich
Who in truth made quite a nice pair.
They lived with each other for many long years
Until they wound up in each other's hair.
B. 810 - D. 810
He had not seen his first sunrise
Felt not the warmth of dawn
All who saw him wept and cried
To this world he had come stillborn
Count Christopher Eveer
B. 1175 - D. 1200
The young Eveer
His time so near
Said he, "My dear
Lend me your ear
Please do not fear
My life ends here."
At last finding the proper grave, Graham takes his shovel and digs until the shovel's iron spade finally hits something hard. Nervously, he reaches down, opens the coffin, and looks inside. Searching through the belongings of the deceased, (according to the tombstone) they belonged to a Count Christopher Eveer. After some tentative searching, he finds a parchment, appearing to be the last will and testament of Larmon Odnarb, a healer.
Looking it over, Graham notices something's amiss. Running his eyes over the parchment, it was dated 1200 - the same as the date on the headstone. However, the instructions pertaining to the burial were for Larmon to be placed near his family at the church's cemetery. "Oh dear..." Graham thinks.
Leaving the cemetery, Graham makes his way back to the boat on the island's shore.
"If I may ask, Sir Boatman..." Graham asks, "...how did this swamp come to be here? Is it... natural?"
"No..." the boatman moans a reply, "The ground you stand upon was once farming land, and dwellings for the peasantry."
"How did it come to be like this?" Graham asks.
"A score of years passed after the Master died, and a great morass opened up, covering the surrounding land with slime and poisoned water. Once rich and fertile, now it is no longer."
"The count has caused this?"
"It is believed so. For why else would his own castle be spared?"
"Ah. Thank you, Sir Boatman."
Climbing back onto the decrepit rowboat, the ghoul ferries Graham back across the lake.
Once across, Graham heads back to the church. Along the way, he notices a light shining in Countess Lavidia's former cabin. Knowing that there should not be one, Graham investigates, where he finds a wolf asleep in her old bed, while its pup lies, curled up, in Pos- er, Anastasia's old bed. Awaking, the mother snarls, jumping out the open window with her pup hanging from her mouth by its neck.
Lifting the bigger bed's pillow, Graham finds, to his surprise, a bottle of ointment sitting underneath it; a label on the side of it that reads "Wolfsbane". Being very careful not to smash it, he takes the ointment and puts it in his pocket. Leaving, he closes the door behind him, unable to lock it...
Making his way back to the church, which only got creepier as the night wore on, Graham's heart beats faster and faster as he pushes the handle of the church door; it opens, as he nervously walks inside. There, he notices candles lit in the formation of a pentagram - a Satanic symbol one would not commonly find in a (supposed) House of God - while on the alter, Graham looks over a book: the private journal of Llowh'wof, the Head Monk of the Church of Kolyma. Flipping through it, Graham sees a paragraph with a name he recognizes.
It is frustrating, as always, dealing with Count Caldaur and his ilk. He is just like his father, perhaps even worse. He insists that Kolyma be "pushed forward" to enlighten the peasantry. Can he not see that this path leads to ruin?
How can the people retain their moral goodness if their minds are filled with knowledge of the wider world and all of its sin?
Graham turns a few more pages, choosing another interesting-looking paragraph...
I am quite convinced that Caldaur is so blinded by his so-called vision for Kolyma that he cannot see the folly of his intentions. And yet, he is the Lord of Kolyma. To publicly refute him would create confusion and anger in the people.
I am a man of patience, the greatest gift His Grace has granted me. Perhaps time will settle this young lord's idealism and grant him sense in the process.
The journal largely contains many entries of similar types, and of daily matters of the monk's life. Graham is about to replace the journal where he had found it, but his eye catches a most peculiar passage.
A wonderment was discovered in the forest this night! The Spirits of the Wild, long thought to be only of legend, appeared to us and saw fit to grant my brethren and I the most blessed of gifts, such power we now have! Our forms can be abandoned in favor of any other! And I am to be their leader, their most powerful. They are bound to me, inextricably.
The Spirits have made promises of greater things to come for us. Oh, it fills me with such longing! The endless possibilities. I must leave for a time. The moon is full, and I feel the urge to join my pack as they run. Perhaps we will hunt. Perhaps we will kill.
My mind is now clear, and I know the path before us. It is a path that shall lead us to greatness, and it will begin with the destruction of our nemesis! But now, I no longer have the patience to write. I must run. I must hunt. I must...
The passage ends abruptly. Though there are many pages left to be written on, it is evident that the final passage was written a number of years ago. "How strange." Graham says as he processes this information. He then replaces the journal, putting it back where he had found it.
Entering the cemetery behind the church, Graham begins his search of the graves. Given how many souls have been laid to rest here over the many years, he imagines that this place has its share of sorrow. However, this melancholy thought does not relieve his anxiety; he felt that it would be best to do what he has come to do and leave quickly!
B. 985 - D. 1015
The jester joked his life away
Until a quip he made one day
Insulted was a Baron's son
Who had this poor old jester hung.
B. 1300 - D. 1345
Here lies a man who feared all bugs
Too scared to even lift his rug
For if he had, he would have found
Insects that make little sound
With bites so deadly for their size
That surely did cause his demise.
B. 1250 - D. 1273
In that usual daring way of hers
She threw caution to the wind
Late one eve she risked a venture
And went out to sea with him
Totally in love she was
So filled with careless whim
That when he threw her overboard
She never thought to swim!
B. 1370 - D. 1441
Never in all his living years
Had he ever seen such sights
For hours did he stare at them
Those beautiful, dazzling lights
So happy was he that he had been able
To live to see this night
But down a cliff he blindly fell
For the lights had been too bright
In this dark hole,
Lies one brave soul,
Whose questing for glory,
Has taken its toll
B. 1189 - D. 1232
He would go out in the pouring rain
And risk becoming wet
He would never dry off afterwards
So very sick he did get
Here lies the Odnarb family
(Evidently, they were quite well respected to have their own area.)
B. 1200 - D. 1256
She was a lady with strange habits
Who, as friends, kept only rabbits
When they came; her hunger grew
Her friends all wound up in her stew
The other creatures, only bunnies
Found this not remotely funny
So their swift revenge they sought
The kitchen, in her sleep, they brought
Heaved her into the large pot
Which was, regretfully, much too hot!
B. 1248 - D. 1299
During the annual house inspection
She spied a mirror, and its reflection
For days she lovingly gazed at it
Unable to sleep, or eat, or sit
With the last of her earthly power
There she remained, until her final hour
B. 1226 - D. 1258
Beside religious connotation
(Reverence paid daily as we should)
It is a tradesman's irony that
A carpenter was killed upon the wood
B. 1205 - D. 1252
The writer wrote until he bled
In his final agony he said
"I will not lift my trusty pen
Until I, at last, have reached The End."
B. 998 - D. 1029
Alas, my dear
You have come too near
To your heart's great desire
It seems that now
You have run afoul
And should not have lit that fire
B. 1365 - D. 1415
Here lies a foolish non-believer
With shame deep as this hole
Even God, though wise and powerful,
Cannot save his wretched soul.
B. 905 - D. 987
The power brought unto this world
Is as unholy as this sage
Doomed are those that have descended
From the blood of a First Mage
B. 1175 - D. 1200
Dear old Larmon was a Healer
Cured many a deadly fever
One he caught, that bitter day
Healed not himself, and passed away
Using the shovel, Graham dug until his shovel hit something hard. Opening the casket, Graham finds a small chest among the old man's remains. With baited breath, Graham opens the box. Inside is the tiara he was sent to find. Retrieving it from its final resting place, Graham lets out a loud, relieved sigh. He feels as if the coming sunrise will be the most glorious sight he will ever behold, considering how close he was to never seeing it again. Unfortunately, he STILL has to get back to the castle before the sun rises.
About to leave, Graham freezes as a wolf's howl sends shivers down his spine. He forces himself to turn around and face... ...nothing. Graham's anxiety must be causing him to hear things. Leaving the unholy chapel, the wolves' howling only grows louder. Suddenly, at the crossroads, without warning, a wolf darts out of the darkness of the forest and dashes towards Graham! This time, it was running DIRECTLY towards him! Quickly, Graham rubs the wolfsbane ointment on his skin. Sensing the ointment, the wolf quickly turns and flees back into the forest. Apparently, this 'wolfsbane' ointment has little to do with the poisonous plant... Unfortunately, either way, the ointment's effects are NOT permanent.
Returning to the shore, Graham finds there is no boat, or its ghoulish boatman.
Hearing angry snarling coming from behind, Graham turns, finding himself surrounded by a small pack of wolves, and their werewolf leader... ...there was no escape for him this time!
The werewolf monk and his pack have tracked Graham here, and they clearly intend to do nothing less than rip him apart. "If you are going to do something," Graham thinks, "now will be a good time to do it!"
Tugging forcefully at one of the hollow reeds until it finally breaks free; Graham puts it away, carrying it with him. Attaching the silver needle he had found in that haystack at the edge of the reed, he makes an effective, if not sturdy, pea shooter. However, the needle alone is not an effective weapon. Dodging all of the wolves attacks, Graham (very) carefully soaks the tip of the needle with the lake's toxic water. As the werewolf lunges at Graham, jumping midair for a fatal pouncing attack, Graham shoots the poisoned needle into the monk's heart, killing him instantly - although the silver alone may have killed the werewolf, the toxic water it was tipped with made the death more instantaneous. Without their leader, the wolves scurry off into the swamp as the ghoulish boatman returns.
"I see you have met the Brotherhood of the Pack." The boatman moans, grabbing Graham's attention.
"Where were you?" Graham asks, in between adrenaline-filled breaths.
"Detained." The boatman replies, "A man, who had assumed your appearance, boarded my boat." This REALLY got Graham's attention, though he said nothing as the boatman continued, "When we reached the other side, I perceived the flaws of his disguise and dispatched him instantly." Though Graham is slightly relieved, he allows the boatman to continue, "The count has been wary of the Brotherhood of the Pack for many years now. In obtaining what he asked for and ridding this land this land of their leader, you have served him doubly well this night."
As Graham cautiously steps onto the boat, the shrouded ghoul paddles across the toxic lake to the shores of the castle's island. Still immune to the land's poisonous air, Graham re-enters the huge wooden doors and makes his way to the castle's main dining room. As expected, he finds the count and countess awaiting him.
"You have performed admirably." The count compliments his return visitor, "Not only have you found the tiara I sought, you have rid me and this land of the deceptive and secretive Brotherhood of the Pack. They have committed many atrocities against my family, such as the deaths of our son and daughter-in-law. I have been forced to remain secluded all these years, unable to serve my homeland as I should... to evade their relentless pursuit of wiping out my entire family line."
"Is the Brotherhood really gone?" Graham asks, "Some of those wolves escaped."
"The rest of the pack followed the wolves that ambushed you." Count Caldaur informs King Graham, "However, without their leader, they will find themselves as lost in mind as they are now in body. Whether human, wolf, or any other form, their hastened passage through my swamp will not see a return to their den, of that I can assure you."
"You have trapped them all in your swamp... the entire Pack?" Graham asks, in a tone that is crossed between astonished and mortified.
"An endless flight through the mire awaits them." Count Caldaur replies, almost smiling at his defeated enemies' fate, "Should my long-stilled heart ever feel pity again, perhaps one day, I shall free them."
As Graham listens to the count's cold, unforgiving tone, he thanks his lucky stars that the count no longer sees him as a threat... at least not for the time being.
"I release you from my service, dear King." The count says, after taking a sip of his blood-filled chalice, "The nearing dawn no longer signifies an uncertain future for you."
Outstretching his palm, the Death Gem appears in his hand. Giving a slight nod, Graham is allowed to take the Death Gem, finally having all three Gems in his possession. He feels a pang of anticipation as he realizes that all he needs to do now is take them to the Door of Destiny.
"I wish you the best, dear King." Count Caldaur says as King Graham leaves the castle's dining hall.
"A word of advice, King Graham." Countess Lavidia says, getting Graham to pause, turning to face her to hear what she has to say, "Once you have found the lady you seek, protect her with all your strength. Never leave her side, and place no importance above that of her well-being. Give your life for hers, if it should ever come to that. Love can last an eternity, but your loved one can be lost in an instant." Caressing the hand of her lover, she concludes, "Heed these words, my King, and farewell."
With a smile and a nod, Graham leaves, as a sorrowful Anastasia watches on, out of sight, shedding a few despair-filled tears as she watches him leave. Unfortunately, he sees her, only making her run off to her coffin chamber. Saddened, Graham finally realizes how Anastasia really feels about him, although now was not the time for the two to reconcile...
As the large wooden doors slam shut behind him, Graham steps aboard the decrepit boat as the ghoulish boatman takes him to the mainland's shore.
"He... did... WHAT!?" the booming voice of The Father comes through on Hagatha's crystal ball.
"Aaahhh... w-well..." she fearfully stutters, "it would appear that our count's loyalty was to be questioned after all. Caldaur has decided to leave us, now that he again has his wife at his side."
"No one has EVER left my service before." The Father's irritated voice billows out.
"Yes, Father. It is most regretful." Hagatha replies, ever the 'yes-witch'.
"IT IS UNTHINKABLE!" The Father billows back, making Hagatha cringe.
"Yes, Father. It is quite unthinkable."
"It is up to YOU, then, Sister Hagatha..." The Father continues.
"Yes, Father. It is..." she replies, before catching just what The Father has said, "Um... pardon?"
"You will have to deal with him yourself." The Father commands, "If Graham dies abroad, the crown will pass to me. With it, the Item will be known to me at long last."
"Father, are you sure?" Hagatha asks, "It is an ancient legend..."
"It DOES exist, and I WILL find it!" The Father billows, making Hagatha cringe again, "Do you hear me, Hagatha? Graham is NOT to return to Daventry ALIVE!" With that, The Father's presence fades away.
...BACK WITH KING GRAHAM...
Arriving at the mainland shore of Kolyma, Graham notices that the swamp seems a bit lighter than the last time he stepped foot on the shoreline, and some of the heavy mist has lifted. Day must be dawning.
Leaving the swamp, Graham makes his way to that bridge that would lead him to the Door of Destiny, taking a side trip back to the village, paying another visit to the local library.
"Yes?" the librarian asks, in her usual tone.
"Could you recommend another good book?" Graham asks.
"No." the librarian snaps back, taking Graham by surprise.
"I'm sorry?" Graham asks.
"No." the librarian repeats, "You have read every last one of our good books. The only other title you may find vaguely interesting is this one."
She points to the book sitting on her desk, entitled: The Annual Book of General Knowledge. Browsing through it anyway, Graham comes across a rather interesting article.
Did you know...
-Eating certain types of fish has remarkable transformative effects.
-Eating white snake allows communication with the natural and animal world.
-Cookies make good camouflage.
-The rumor about unicorns and who can see them is NOT true.
-Mixing animal hair in lotion and potions can cause intriguing side effects.
-Goats are the natural enemies of trolls. (Actually, Graham already knew that fact...)
-Wands are like pets.
-Life is like a box of chocolates. ('You never know WHAT you are going to get.' Graham thought, remembering
that his late mother would use that phrase many times while she was still alive...)
-Some worlds were created perfectly by the Gods while others were left to be recreated.
-Fairy dust loses its effectiveness with age.
-A wise man reads the lines in the sand for direction.
-All you need is love.
Either way, Graham tips his hat to the librarian and leaves to continue on with the quest at hand.
Making his way to the bridge, Graham carefully crosses it. But no matter how careful you are, something wrong is ALWAYS bound to happen as, almost to the other end, Graham's foot slips through one of the rotting boards, trapping him. However, looking at the fragment left hanging on the rope of the bridge, Graham saw, shockingly, that the break on the end of the fragmented plank was almost TOO clean. Cursing himself for being so foolish, Graham walked right into some creature's trap. Try as he might, he could not dislodge his foot.
Hearing a noise from behind, Graham discovers who his adversary, the one who set the trap, really is.
"You there!" Graham yells out, "Can you..." before recognition finally dawns upon him, "Wait a minute... I know you! You are that thieving little pest who used to reside in Daventry!"
"Yes!" the dwarf replies, "How kind of you to recognize me." (He often followed a sorcerer around, thieving from the enchanter's helpless, paralyzed victims...)
"And just what are you doing here in Kolyma?" Graham demands.
"Oh... this and that." The dwarf replies, "At the moment, I am getting my own back."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Imagine the surprise when, having come home from a hard day's work..."
"Mugging, you mean." Graham interrupts.
"...I find that my treasure had been robbed, and my food stolen!"
"Are you claiming either was yours to begin with?"
"I went a bit hungry yesterday." The dwarf replied, finally getting angry, "But I am willing to forgive. I happen to know that you are carrying some most expensive items... including that which you stole from me." Walking over to the ropes that suspend the bridge, the dwarf takes out his knife and places them to the rope. "I will give you a choice." He said, inching the blade closer to the rope's hemp fibers, "Either you hand over some treasure, or I start cutting. I have already had a go at the ropes on the other side, so should you survive the impact once I have cut both ends here..." The dwarf informs, as Graham sees that he is not lying - the ropes on his side of the bridge are starting to break under the pressure, "I doubt the remainder will hold your dangling weight." Smiling, the dwarf lays an even greater catch to his offer, "Oh yes!" he says, "You can start by throwing me those lovely gems you are carrying."
With little choice, Graham wraps the three Gems of Nature into a cloth, tying them snugly inside, before tossing them to HIS side of the bridge.
"You... fool!" the dwarf sneers.
"Now if you want your treasure, then you help me!" Graham smugly says.
"HA! Not a chance!" the dwarf replies, "I am not coming anywhere NEAR you."
"Fine." Graham shrugs, "Then you stay where you are, and the treasure stays over there."
Graham's ultimatum causes a conflict of interest for the dwarf. While he does not want to help Graham, his greed demands to be instantly satisfied. While Graham has nothing to do at the moment, he wonders if kleptomania may be an inherent quality in dwarfs. Then he notices the fraying ropes on the mountain end of the bridge - they are unraveling!
"Well?" Graham asks, growing impatient.
"I might just leave you there, wait until you die, and then come back. You will not be a problem to me when you are dead!"
"By which time, the bridge will have fallen... you have done a good job on those ropes over there."
While muttering something inaudible, the dwarf throws Graham his knife. Graham catches it deftly, realizing that whatever he is going to do, he had better do it fast! Then, Graham begins to cut the bridge's support rope.
"What are you doing?" the dwarf asks, worriedly, "You... you are crazy!"
As the rope gives way to Graham's onslaught, he holds on tight and braces himself for the inevitable as the bridge slams against the cliff wall. Upon impact, the collision shatters the plank that held his leg in place, and he is again free to move. He also discovers that his entire body REALLY hurts right now! Ignoring the pain, Graham climbs up the broken bridge like a ladder, making it safely to the other side. Of course, now there is no way of getting back to the other side; however, that does not concern him at the moment.
"You could at least give me back my knife." The dwarf grumbles.
With that, tempted to hurl it into the dwarf's chest, he gives the blade a half-hearted, underhanded toss, sending it right into the chasm below.
"No!" the dwarf yelled.
"It serves you right for stealing from Daventry's magic chest." Graham says, sounding righteous over the matter. Taking back the bag containing the Three Gems of Nature, Graham makes his way to the Door of Destiny, leaving a sulking, sobbing dwarf behind him.
Walking back up to the Door of Destiny, he sees that it still bears three indentations, each in the shape of identical-sized gems. Unwrapping the cloth, Graham places the Birth Gem into the first socket, feeling the earth quake beneath his feet, then the Growth Gem in the second indentation, as the miniature earthquake only got worse, followed quickly by the Death Gem, as the quake finally stopped as the three gems merged, forming the door's face.
"BIRTH. GROWTH. DEATH." The Door of Destiny billowed, "THE CYCLE OF THIS LIFE IS COMPLETE, NOW AND FOREVER. SPEAK, AND MY PURPOSE IS THUS FULFILLED. MY PASSAGE TO THE NEXT WORLD MAY BEGIN AT LONG LAST."
"Then, if you please," Graham requests, "I would bid thee open."
"AS YOU WISH." The door replied, "BUT A WORD OF CAUTION: AS YOU ENTER, KNOW IN YOUR HEART WHICH DESTINY YOU TRULY DESIRE." With that, the face disappeared and the stone door crumbled.
Thinking hard, Graham focuses on the tower he had seen in his castle's magic mirror, as he steps into the portal that was once blocked by the Door of Destiny.
Suddenly, Graham finds himself in a strange realm, with a blood red sea and a landscape as dark blue as humanly imaginable. Slightly hungry from his 'little trip', Graham saw a fish flopping around in the water. Casting his net, hoping for a meal, Graham pulled out this huge fish; that is, after several casts, of course.
Seeing the large, golden fish flop around on the sandy beach; Graham did not have the heart to kill and eat it, so grabbing the flopping fish - its mouth wide open and gills extended - and with great difficulty, he holds the fish as it twists and turns in his arms as he tosses it back into the sea. As if flops and swims around in the water, happily, it pops it head above water.
"Thank you for not killing me." The fish says, "For your kindness, I will gladly take you across the other side of the vast sea."
Seeing that it is where the tower stands, Graham accepts. Carefully lowering himself down the steep embankment, he then slides onto the fish's scaly back, holding on tight as the fish swims far out to sea!
Arriving there in a flash, Graham slides off the fish's back and clambers onto the sandy shore of the surreal little island as the fish swims back off into the undersea wilderness.
Exploring the island, something was telling him that, even though there is a clear path to the tower, Graham was still missing SOMETHING, so he explores the island's shoreline a little further. On one small stretch of beach, he finds some mysterious writing appear in the sand...
It would appear
That you, my dear
Are here, indeed, to help me.
Walk to this sand
And place your hand
Upon these words... and you will see.
Doing as the writing instructed, Graham places his palm on the words in the sand. There, a void appears underneath him, transporting him to the smaller island off the coast, where he notices yet another message in the sand...
You may return
But pause to learn
A way to flee this cursed place.
My end draws near
So hurry dear
And come swift to me in haste!
One thing was for certain, if the person who had wrote these little notes is the woman he has come to rescue, Graham can add 'talented poet' to his growing list of reasons why he came all this way to rescue her...
While on the island, Graham picks an ample-sized coconut from one of the trees overhead, as well as picking up a beautiful quartz stone from the seashore. Using the sharp blade of his sword, Graham cuts the coconut clean in half. Then, holding his finger in the air, Graham is surprised to feel that there is no hint of a breeze. "Strange..." Graham thinks.
Accidently spilling the coconut milk onto the sand, three symbols appear in the sand. Studying them, Graham comes to the conclusion that they must represent an action that he needed to perform in order to establish an escape route from this place - it depicts, what could be interpreted as, pouring coconut milk on the sandy ground...
Walking to a small patch of sand, Graham tries just that. Getting nothing, Graham looks harder at those symbols, recognizing his error - that drop was not coconut milk, but water. Trying that, he fills the coconut half with briny water from the magenta colored sea and pours it over the symbols, and another piece of mysterious text appears...
Well done, my dear
You have come so near
A King's Quest is soon to end.
But if now you go
Alone, you would know
Our broken path will never mend.
Suddenly, the sand begins to swirl again as yet another portal appears in the poem's place. Remembering the last poem's words, Graham feels it well advised not to take this new portal, instead taking the one he had used to get to this island. Returning to this realm's mainland, Graham heads back to the tower.
There, he finds that the disc he found in Hagatha's cave fits perfectly into the outer ring of the door, while the quarts stone he found easily fits into the strange lock's inner sphere. Suddenly, the golden lion statues that guard the tower come to life. On the defensive, Graham is surprised to find that the lions do no attack. Instead, they speak in a unified tone...
The truth you will find from one such as I
For the other can only be lying.
These words will provide you the means to get by
My companion's, though, shall see you dying.
The classic 'pick a door' scenario laid before him, Graham turns his attention to one of the two lions...
"If you were to ask my companion if he knows the way through this door, his would answer 'yes.'"
Then, the second lion said in response...
The first carries all manner of weather.
The second gives cause to be burned.
The third is shallow as it can be deep.
The fourth, to bear fruit, must be turned.
Then, getting a closer look at the disc he had placed into the door's outer lock, he noticed four symbols: fire, earth, air, and water - the symbols for the ancient elements. He picks the order "air/fire/water/earth," and with that, the door opens, allowing Graham access to the crystal tower.
Inside, Graham finds a long, winding spiral stairway; which, at the end, he finds a lion standing guard.
Although it does not stir as Graham slowly approaches, he distances himself from the beast as much as possible, holding the emerald in such a way that the window's light passes through it. Instantly, the lion begins to transform into an elderly, bearded, almost naked man, who could almost be seen through his skin and bone frame.
"I cannot tell you how much I appreciate what you have just done for me." The elderly prisoner said.
"You are welcome." Graham replies, before asking, "Who are you?"
"At one time, I was Hagatha's suitor..." he said, "...when we were both much younger. Believe it or not, she was quite attractive in her day."
"Hmmmm..." Graham moans, disbelieving.
"But during the course of our relationship I fell in love with another woman." The old man continued, "In a jealous rage Hagatha transformed me into a lion, to guard this door for the rest of my life. I have seen, or rather heard, many a pretty damsel spend the last of her days inside that room. Incidentally, I presume you have found the exit from this strange island?"
"Then I shall bid you farewell." The old man interrupts, "It is awfully drafty in here. Strange, I did not notice that when I was covered in cat hair." With that, the old man walks past Graham, blissfully unaware of his bare nakedness.
Before entering the chamber, Graham grabs a leftover tuft of the lion's fur. Knocking on the door, Graham does not get a response; lifting the wooden beam that holds the door in place, he opens it, finally laying eyes on the woman of his dreams lying on a soft bed.
Placing a light kiss on her features, she stirs but does not awaken. (Unfortunately, the "waking a sleeping beauty with a kiss" technique only works in fairy tales.) When she fails to respond, her sleep (Graham surmises) seems to be deeper than usual, almost magic induced.
Holding his emerald over the woman, Graham realizes that the light from the window does not penetrate the part of the room where she is laying. Seeing a broken vanity mirror nearby, Graham pushes it to window, positioning the mirror to where it would reflect the necessary amount of sunlight for the emerald to work its counter magic. Focusing the light onto the sleeping maiden, Graham is dismayed at first when nothing happens. Almost brought to tears that he was too late to save her, Graham is overjoyed to see her finally stir, dispelling the sleeping enchantment almost instantly.
She moans, waking up, before saying with a smile, "Hello, Graham."
"Hello..." Graham replies, "ah... I think you have me at a disadvantage, my lady."
"Oh, of course." She replies, giggling, "My name is Valanice. I have been watching you."
"Watching me?" Graham asks, curious more than concerned, "But how?"
"In my sleep," Valanice replies, further closing the gap between them, "from the moment you arrived in Kolyma."
"The lines in the sand..." Graham replies, as everything starts to make sense, "those were your words?"
"This is a strange place, filled with such strong magic." She replies, "Once you arrived, I discovered a way to communicate with you from my sleep. I hope you found my words to be of some aid."
"Indeed I did, my lady." Graham replies, further closing the gap, each caught in the other's spell of love, "My heart was warmed greatly when you expressed your longing to see me."
"I have come to learn a great deal about you, Graham; of your nobility and bravery. I know why you came here, and how truly deep your feelings are for me." She says, as their bodies come so close to one another that they cannot precede any further. "I want you to know that I have come to feel the same way for you."
Something about the way she looks at Graham speaks a thousand words. "She loves you, Graham." He hears a voice say to him, "She REALLY loves you!"
As they finally kiss, a rush of untold emotion flows through the both of them - heat, lighting, fireworks, you name it! Even if this was a dream, this moment could not get any better for either one of them.
"Well, now... this is certainly a NICE scene!" the Witch Hagatha appears from out of nowhere in a cloud of smoke.
Valanice screams, shielding herself behind Graham as he grabs the handle of his sword, prepared for the worst.
"What a pretty pair." Hagatha continues, "I hope you are enjoying each other's company... since you will not be doing a great deal else... for much longer!"
With the slight wave of her hand, the pair hears a sharp noise coming from behind them.
"The door!" Graham yells, "Why you..."
"Witch?" Hagatha replies.
"I am sure it would have rhymed." Valanice adds, with a fearful yet angry scowl painted on her face.
"Silence!" Hagatha demands, "I will not be so spoken to by the likes of you!"
"Why do you despise her?" Graham demanded to know, "What has Valanice ever done to you?"
"SHE... has the attention of men all over the land!" the ugly old witch replies, "Attention that, once, had all been mine! I will NOT allow her to take it away from me!"
"I think you should just allow the two of us to go." Graham says.
"HA! and why would I want to do THAT!?"
"We would leave your realm together, never to return." Graham replies, trying to at least reason with the old crone, "Then you would have all the attention you could ever want again."
"Hmmmmm..." Hagatha moans, considering Graham's offer. "Nice try, my pretty fly, but you are caught in my web now. And besides, The Father would not want you returning and interrupting his search."
"The Father?" Graham asks, although the name does sound vaguely familiar, "Is he one of your male admirers?"
The witch cackles, "You think... that The Father... is one of m... m... my admirers?" she cackles further, "You silly, silly BOY! How naïve are you, not to even realize that the man in charge of your own army is the man who wishes you destroyed."
A look of shock crosses Graham's face as recognition hits him hard like a stone fist from behind... 'Gervain...' he thinks, 'If I ever get out of this situation ALIVE, I am going to have to start looking for a NEW Secretary of Defense Minister.'
Suddenly remembering what he had read about animal hair in lotions and potions, Graham (behind his back) jams the tuft of lion's fur into the youth potion that was still in his possession, which quickly dissolves into the blue liquid.
"Graham, what are you doing?" Valanice asks, whispering.
"Trust me, my love." He whispers back, before getting the madly cackling witch's attention. "I might have something that may interest you." Graham says, holding out the tainted vile, "A youth potion, brewed from a nightingale, no less."
"Gasp YOU have it!?" Hagatha asks, stunned, "Well, do not just stand there gaping, you foolish boy... give it to me!" With that demand, Graham tosses the potion to the witch, which she easily catches, although it almost fumbles to the floor. "Yes... YES! This IS it! I thought I would never see it again! At last, I have the finished youth potion in my hands!"
As she drinks, Valanice asks Graham her question yet again, only to get, "Just watch..." as a reply, as Graham wears a mischievous grin on his face.
Finishing the vial, Hagatha transform into a blonde beauty.
"Look at me!" she says, "I am so beautiful!" Then, hair starts to grow from all parts of her body. "NOOOOOO!" she yells, discovering what had happened, "What have you done to me?"
"Just giving you a taste of your own medicine!" Graham replies.
"How could you?" Hagatha hisses and growls (which was quite appropriately, considering her new appearance) "I will NEVER be able to show my face anywhere!" That was when she starts to feverishly scratch, "And I have fleas!" she whines. Looking at herself in the old, broken mirror, "How bad is it? Let me see!"
"Here..." Graham says. Getting the opportunity, he adjusts the mirror, as well as the light from the sun.
"My eyes!" she whines, blinded, staggering backwards, until she falls out the opened window with a loud shriek.
Gazing through the window, Valanice gasps. "Hagatha's body is nowhere to be seen! I wonder where she went."
"To Hell, I hope." Graham replies.
Then, Valanice turns, running into Graham's arms, almost knocking him off balance. "Yes!" she abruptly says.
"I beg your pardon?" he asks.
"You were trying to think of the best way to ask me to marry you." Valanice says, "As I said, I have seen you in my dreams ever since you arrived in Kolyma; and I have come to feel for you, the way I know you feel about me. So the answer to your question is 'yes.'"
"But... I have not asked you yet."
"There is a far better question you could ask," She replies, "such as where we shall be wed? In your kingdom or mine?"
"Yours." Graham replies, without a second thought or a moment's hesitation, "There is something I must attend to in Daventry that may otherwise ruin the occasion."
"Whatever you decide, my dear."
After one more kiss, Graham manages to break open the door, while he carried Valanice bridal style down the spiral stairwell, the two venture to the smaller island where the portal still swirls expectantly. As he steps through it, he finds himself wondering just where that portal will take them.
"We seem to be in... Hagatha's cave." Graham says, once he and Valanice arrive at their destination.
"How did we end up here?" she asks.
"I have no idea."
Inquisitively, Graham picks up the glass dome, inspecting it more closely. Astoundingly, within the dome's wall of glass is contained the entire island's realm, quartz tower and all!
"Why ever would you want to take that?" Valanice asks.
"This item denied you of your freedom." Graham replies, walking towards Hagatha's bubbling cauldron, "It is only right that you may do as you please with it."
"Hmmmmmm..." Valanice replies, thinking.
"OR, you could accept it as a wedding gift." Graham offers, with a sly smile on his face.
Valanice takes the dome from Graham's hand.
"I shall keep it as a reminder that," she says, looking at it, "regardless of what transpires from this point on," then looking back up at Graham, "I HAVE experienced worse."
Leading her out of the cave, they see that it is night again (already) as the couple is greeted by a surprise visitor...
"Beautiful night, yes?" Count Caldaur says with a smile.
As Valanice shields herself behind Graham once more, a gesture Caldaur halfway expected, but otherwise fails to take offense to, Graham replies, "Yes. Certainly." It is apparent that he was clearly not expecting him, "To what do we owe the... ah... pleasure of your visit?"
"Why, King Graham!" the count chuckles as he replies, "Surely you do not think of me as the enemy?" mocking an offended gesture, "If I had wanted you destroyed, it would have been a simple enough thing to do." Then, becoming more serious, "No, I have come only to ask a question of you, if I may."
"Of course." Graham replies, relaxing - even Valanice joins Graham at his side, "And what would this question be?"
"I wish to know..." Count Caldaur says, "have either of you ever seen a wedding ceremony performed and orchestrated by a highly experienced and rather exceptional mage?"
"Not really." Valanice honestly replies.
"I cannot say that I-" Graham adds.
"Well then, prepare yourselves." The count interrupts Graham, refusing to take 'no' for an answer to his offer, "I promise you both that this will be... a night to remember!"
With a wave of the count's arms, the three of them are mystically transported back to his castle for the wedding they were promised.
As they stood in front of the count in his castle's main hall, dressed in the formal attire the count and countess once wore on their wedding day, they find themselves an audience full of people Graham has helped since arriving in Kolyma, cheering him on...
"People of Kolyma!" Count Caldaur says, silencing the crowd, "It is my desire to be reinstated as your custodian and protector, if you will still have me."
The crowd is at first silent until a murmur is heard; then, the uproarious cheers and applause voice the unanimous approval of those gathered.
"Very well." The count replies, smiling, "Therefore, with the power and authority you have reinvested in me, I wish to conduct the ceremony of these two deserving people, who have chosen to join together in marriage. Behold!"
With that, and a wave of his arms, the dank, dark castle is transformed into a more appropriate setting for a wedding, instead of a funeral, allowing for - via special glass globes magically suspended in air - allowing King Neptune and the Cloud Spirit to witness the ceremony.
"King Graham of Daventry." Count Caldaur says, addressing the groom, "Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?"
Looking over at Valanice, he gives the only appropriate, if not acceptable answer, "I do."
"Lady Valanice." Count Caldaur says, this time addressing the bride, "Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live?"
"I do." Valanice replies, meaning it from the bottom of her heart.
"Do you have a wedding band?" the count asks Graham.
"Yes." He says, "It is a gift from Anastasia's parents." Placing it on Valanice's finger, Anastasia gives Graham her unspoken approval.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife." Count Caldaur says, "I think you know what comes next."
With that, the newlywed couple seals their bond with a kiss as the jubilance of the crowd reaches a new height - the people of Kolyma seem only too eager to rejoice in the new royal couple's newfound happiness.
"I cannot thank you enough for your service to me, in ensuring the safety of my family." Count Caldaur says to Graham, "Without the Brotherhood's moral decadence of old, the people of Kolyma can finally move forward."
"And I will not forget the chance you have given my husband and I to spend an eternity together." Countess Lavidia adds.
"Your kindness will always be remembered." Anastasia says.
"Your valor and bravery shall echo in the Mer-peoples' songs for ages to come." King Neptune says.
"The legacy of your homeland lives on," the Cloud Spirit says, "due to your exemplary honor."
To King Graham's astonishment, he saw the spirits of the late King Edward and Queen Maylee of Daventry, together, giving their silent approval on Graham's choice for a bride.
"Now, King Graham, it is time for you to take your bride to her new home." The count says.
"But my ship... my crew..." King Graham starts to say.
"I have sent them home already." The count replies, "By now, they would have notified every one of your subjects of your imminent arrival."
"Imminent arrival?" Valanice asks, confused.
"Trust me." The count replies, winking as he sends the royal couple to their home with a snap of his fingers.
"Good luck, Graham!" Anastasia yells off as the mystical transportation takes place.
"I wish you all the best, both of you." Countess Lavidia adds.
"Give my regards to The Father!" Count Caldaur requests, as the transportation completes.
...AT CASTLE DAVENTRY...
As the vapors subside, a deafening roar erupts from the audience. All have come far and wide to bear witness to their king's return, and the coronation of their new queen.
"Welcome back, Your Majesty." Minister Gervain says, approaching his king, "And may I say, never have I seen a more beautiful and stunning bride than the one you have returned with." As the king steps closer to him, "I trust you found your journey through Kolyma void of peril or incid-"
Not even allowed to finish his sentence, King Graham lays a powerful right hook to Gervain's face, felling him instantly as the mortified crowd around them gasp with shock.
"Hagatha told me of your treachery." King Graham demands, "Who are you? Why do you call yourself 'The Father?' What are you searching for?"
His cover blown, Gervain does not even attempt to play dumb.
"You need only know this:" Gervain replies with an unforgiving scowl across his face, his voice deepening menacingly with each syllable, "you would do best not to treat one like I in such a manner."
Addressing the crowd, King Graham speaks, "I must, with much regret, inform you all of a great treachery in our fair land." Then, pointing at Gervain, "This man, he who has sworn loyalty to Daventry and its Crown, is a traitor!" as the gasps and murmurs of the crowd die down, Graham continues, "He has conspired to have me slain away from home, with the intention of pursuing his own insidious ambitions here. Guards!" he commands his more loyal and armed followers, before a vengeful lynch mob could be formed by those in attendance to take matters into their own hands, "Seize him!"
"You have made a terrible mistake, you know." Gervain replies as the guards draw their swords. With a surprising backflip, he draws his sword.
Drawing his own, King Graham issues the command, "Guard, halt! Stand back!"
The guards doing as instructed, albeit reluctantly and with no questions asked, Gervain speaks once more.
"Prepared to fight for your life, are you? And with an old fool's sword." Gervain snickers, "Be warned... you do not know what you are facing. Your ignorance shall destroy you! En garde!"
The fight is on as Graham narrowly blocks Gervain's slashing blow, both locking swords in a tight struggle, as Graham kicks Gervain away. Returning, Graham counters Gervain's attack, though Gervain soon appears to have gained the upper hand. Recovering, Graham forces Gervain's sword from his hands, coming out the hard earned victor.
"It is over." Graham says, with a foot on Gervain's fallen sword, and the tip of his own at his adversary's neck.
"I think not." Gervain replies, escaping King Graham's blade as he shows his true form. As Graham rushes to protect his new bride, The Father, floating midair, cloaked in black with his coal black hair flowing like the snakes on top of the monstrous Medusa's head, and with eyes glowing with an unnatural, eerie light, speaks.
"Thrice now I curse, and from the first, your family shall feel the worse. Soon shall you see, they will truly be, in the most dire jeopardy. Then, as your foe, it is I who will sew, the spell to cause your heart to slow. And for my shame, for you the same, over Daventry your heirs shall never reign!" With that said, Gervain, or The Father as he prefers to be known, disappeared from the castle without a trace, other than the charred stone from over which he once floated.
"Who WAS that man?" Valanice asks.
Comforting her as best he could, Graham replies, "I do not know... but I will find out some day. I swear it..."
Breaking their embrace, Valanice replies, "Listen. We will deal with any curses as we find them, or as they find us." She says, doing her best to sooth her new husband's aching nerves, "Come, you must show me around your kingdom. I wish to become accustomed with the realm in which we will be raising our children."
"But what about your coronation?" Graham asks, before she forces his silence with a finger to his lips.
She then shrugs. "Later." She replies. Right now, she has more 'important' matters on her mind...
...and King Graham and Queen Valanice lived happily ever after... or DID they?
Unfortunately, The Father's curse on King Graham and Queen Valanice proved to be more than mere talk. Soon after the royal twins, Prince Alexander and Princess Rosella, were born, the infant prince was kidnapped from his cradle by the wizard Manannan, one of The Father's many followers, as well as the Witch Hagatha's brother, who also had a nasty habit of kidnapping young boys and enslaving them until they reached manhood. Naturally, this was a massive blow to Valanice, who was reminded of her own kidnapping by that foul witch. Though far from distant, she dealt with her grief by opening a school where she personally taught Daventry's brightest of children, in which Rosella was enrolled as her top student.
Graham, on the other hand, whose previously good judgment and wisdom was shaken by the loss of his son, in an act that he thought, at the time, was the best for the people of Daventry, started sacrificing young maidens to a vile three-headed fire breathing dragon that was terrorizing the realm. What shocked everyone even worse was the fact that he would even sacrifice his own daughter, an act that estranged the two for quite some time after she was rescued by a mysterious traveler.
Thankfully, Prince Alexander, renamed Gwydion by the deranged wizard, managed to escape and defeat his former captor by learning some of his spells and turning the old wizard into a mere housecat. Using these spells, he also gained the ability to converse with animals, as well as gaining an audience with the Oracle, who revealed to him his true identity and heritage, and (with the aid of his magic) allowed him to vanquish the dragon and save his sister along with all of Daventry. As for Manannan, Graham was able to trap him inside a sack of beans, tossing him into the moat surrounding Castle Daventry, serving as food for the hungry, ravenous alligators that called the moat their home as soon as their paths finally crossed, and finally defeating The Father in the process; even though his curse still hung in the air.
Soon after Prince Alexander's homecoming, King Graham suffers a heart attack and is put to the brink of death, which finally allows him and his daughter to truly reconcile. The good fairy Genesta tells Rosella through the magic mirror of a magical fruit that can heal her father. However, Genesta is weakened by her sister, the evil fairy Lolotte, who stole a talisman that give Genesta her power, and without her, the magical fruit would be impossible to obtain. Gaining Lolotte's trust, Rosella obtains the talisman (after completing three tasks) and returns it to Genesta, just in time for her to give the lifesaving fruit to her father.
While all of this was going on, Prince Alexander was his own quest, driven by maddening nightmares that were tormenting him since meeting the Princess Cassima on his way back to Daventry. Learning that the princess was being held captive by the evil Vizier Abdul Alhazred, who had murdered the King and Queen of the Green Isles (a kingdom on the verge of civil war because of the incident) in order to force their princess to become his bride in an attempt to seize power. Using his powers to travel to the land of the dead, Prince Alexander was able to resurrect the King and Queen of the Green Isles, and with Cassima's aid, defeat the evil vizier. Returning their daughter to them, the King and Queen both step down from the thrown, (although they were both resurrected, it still left them both in ill health, which made the possibility of effectively ruling their kingdom otherwise impossible) offering Prince Alexander the crown, along with the hand of Princess Cassima as reward for his aide in their time of great need (that, and Cassima would never have it any other way) but doing so would me that he would be forced to abdicate the Throne of Daventry. With both of his parents' understanding, support and approval, he graciously accepts his in-laws' offer to become the new King of Land of the Green Isles.
As for Rosella, she was wed to Prince Edgar of Etheria after she and her mother helped rid his kingdom of the evil sorceress Malacia's treachery. (Naturally, at first, she was against the idea of marriage in general - until she finally saw what Prince Edgar really looked like and how he acted towards her. Besides, it was either that, or Prince Rupert, someone who Rosella utterly despised from the moment she laid eyes upon him.) She has since decided to rule the kingdom of Etheria by his side as Edgar's queen, finally fulfilling The Father's curse.
However, the question itself still remains... Who will ultimately rule the Kingdom of Daventry after both King Graham and Queen Valanice finally pass on, or are both otherwise forced to step down? I guess the funny thing about history is that it often repeats itself. Who knows? Maybe the Crown of Daventry will find its new owner after one lucky soul finally completes... A King's Quest.