Alexis speaks up, ‘I have a better idea. Why don’t we wait and look around, searching every nook and cranny to find a hidden mystery.’
‘Beautifully said, Your Highness,’ Hernan responds.
‘That’s a good idea,’ Carolyn adds.
The little fat priest starts working at once, sensing every inch of the cave wall with his fingers. The others follow suit.
‘Maybe I’ll go across and look if something is there,’ says Dejan.
‘How are you going to do that?’ Andreas asks, puzzled.
‘Just watch me.’
Saying that, Dejan begins to transform. His clothes turn to feathers, his hands turn to wings, and his body shrinks. The end result, he turns into an eagle!
‘Wonderful!’ says Andreas. ‘Thank Vadis we brought you along.’
The eagle Dejan talks, ‘Glad I can help. Now here I go!’ It flaps its wings, kicks off and flies away.
The four champions keep on searching. Twenty minutes has gone past and they still don’t find a single clue.
‘And Dejan is not back too,’ says Carolyn, looking very worried. ‘I hope nothing happened to him.’
Andreas says, ‘We also used Detect Magic spell, but didn’t find anything. Our water supply dwindles, what should we do? Go back or wait?’
‘We go back,’ says Hernan.
‘No, we’ll wait,’ says Alexis. ‘We have came this far, and the armor is here. Leaving this place means we don’t have faith in Vadis and Avariel, his messenger. I say we stay. What say you, Carol? Carol?’
Alexis looks around and finds Carolyn on a corner, praying. Maybe she’s asking for a way across. Maybe for Dejan’s survival. And maybe for a clue, a miracle, anything to overcome this deadlock situation.
Surprisingly, a thundering voice comes.
‘Your answer will come sooner than you think!’
Just then, out from the lava pit comes a gigantic magma giant. His figure is like a man’s, but he’s obviously not human. The champions stare at him, amazed. The magma giant’s lower parts of his body from hip to bottom are still dipped in the magma pit. He talks with the same rumbling voice as before.
‘Well, well, my children. You come all the way down here to claim the Armor of Righteousness, don’t you? I am Ish’kandr the efreet, guardian of this armor.’
Says Carolyn, ‘Pardon our intrusion, O’ Mighty Ish’kandr. We are only here to borrow the armor.’
‘To borrow? Not to claim it for yourself?’
‘Yes, O’ Mighty One. We are in war against the Heir of Vordac and the Dark Forces, and the armor along with the others in Vadis’ Arsenal will provide a substantial leverage for the Forces of Light as proven by Sage the Fireheart and Antoine the Avenger. After we make sure the Dark Forces won’t bother us for as long as possible, we’ll return it all to its rightful places.’
‘Borrow, eh? That sounds convincing enough. But that conviction needs to be tested,’ the efreet answers. ‘The armor is kept safe in the innermost core of this cavern, and this place is just the outer part. So far you were tested in terms of physical strength and patience only. There’s more to come ahead.’
Alexis says, ‘So, you’re going to attack us right here?’
‘Unfortunately, yes. You see, Archangel Avariel defeated me eighty years ago. He imprisoned me here and assigned me to guard the Armor of Righteousness as a penance. Nevertheless, this is my favorite habitat, and Avariel told me to kill every intruder. Every one, including you, the champions. To fight evil, to gain a better advantage with greater power, there’s a price to pay and a risk to take. Go back now while there’s still a chance, or defeat me and proceed.’
None of the champions go back, and they gather mana instead.
‘Very well, if that’s your answer...’
The efreet raises his hands and balls of lava come up from the pit. He extends his hands forward and the lava balls fly towards the champions! In the nick of time, Carolyn and Hernan summon their guardians, Aegis and
The remaining lava ball goes towards Alexis. He blocks it with rotating sword skill Last Stand of the Eagle. It only neutralizes two-thirds of lava energy, and the rest hits his protection field. Nevertheless, the impact pushes Alexis back.
Carolyn and Hernan shout together, casting Tidal Blast and Typhoon at the efreet through the guardians. The blast hits the Typhoon, and the Typhoon spins water on and on and creates a Maelstrom. This combination deals lots of damage to the magma giant.
The giant doesn’t block or defend himself. Instead, he raises his hands again and a lot of smaller lava balls shoot up, bombarding Aegis and
The champions are also overwhelmed with the small lava balls being hit more than they can block. And there’s more.
‘WATCH OUT!’ says Carol.
They scatter away at once as a fiery hand hammers down! The dent it makes on the floor in addition to the uneven dents there explains that the efreet has attacked like that several times before. One thing for sure, that smash can flatten anyone caught under it, with or without protection field.
Well, none of the champions get flattened, though. Even Alexis, who stood the closest under the hand rolls, clear away on time. With that attack, the efreet magma giant gets real close to the dry ground. Alexis sees that momentum. He quickly leaps and does the Phoenix Wings multislash, hitting targets on the giant’s face.
The giant shakes his face around to avoid being hit, but before he closes his eyes, a slash lands into his right eye! He roars in pain. His free hand comes to punch Alexis to death, but something rolls on and ties that hand up. It’s
‘You think you’re smart, old snake?’ says Ish’kandr to
And he plunges into the lava pit, dragging the ancient sea dragon along!
Author's Note: Page 65-67 from original script "Strength of the Heart"