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Chapter 37

Flay appeared out of the sky and blew flames at the last Krokotillian I could find, blasting it to dust. The Chamber of Fire was clear… As far as I could tell. I had defeated every Krok I could see, but still had not met a single archaeologist. I turned the corner and found something I had missed before: A red sandstone entryway. I walked through the door… And was greeted by a Mander. I hadn’t known that the Manders came inside the areas with monsters in them, but here was Salam Ibn’Dur, who I knew from my voyage on the ship.
“Hi!” I greeted him.
“Hello, Wizard Iceblossom!” he replied cheerfully. “You wouldn’t be able to help me with something, would you?”
“Of course,” I said with authority.
“Thank you, Wizard Iceblossom! You see, some of my brethren have been charmed. They are slaves, in service of the Tuts now. Can you please defeat some of them to free their souls, then eliminate the Kroks?”
“I’ve already done the Kroks.”
“Oh, good job, Wizard Iceblossom! Very efficient.”
“Thanks.” I said, and set off ahead into another excavation site. This one was much more impressive though: It had mazes of huge slabs of rock, a crane machine that lifted away a chunk of the ground, and coolest of all, it was multi-leveled. That sounds boring, but, well, it wasn’t. Five huge slopes were cut into the sand, like stairs. This place, like in Royal Hall, was lit by thousands of torches. I spotted the charmed slaves right away. They were orange Manders wearing a simple skirt-looking-thing. Kilt? I really don’t know what it’s called, so I’m just going to call it a skirt. I knew that they were evil, and slaves that were eternally imprisoned, but still, somehow defeating them felt wrong. This thought evaporated when one of them rushed at me and belched fire at my head. I ducked out of the way just in time, but my hat still smelled like smoke, a little. These lizards could breathe fire!? Why hadn’t Salam told me that!? I casted a Fire Elf and the Mander fell over and sank into the sand. They were weaker than the Kroks, but they were Fire like I was, so they were about the same for me. I started using Snow Serpent instead of Fire Elf. Eventually, I had them all defeated. I hoped their souls were at peace or whatever, because if they weren’t, then I had just killed a bunch of innocent Manders for no reason. I ran back to Salam and told him,
“I put them all at rest. I think.” he nodded.
“Thank you ever so much, Wizard Iceblossom.” he said, handing me a sack of gold that I estimated to contain about 900 coins. Way more than I usually got.
“No, thank you.” I smiled, and walked through the excavation site, which was now empty of Manders, looking for the Marleybonians. Professor Winthrop had said that they were here, right? I looked around the excavation, then decided I needed to go back up the slope on the other side. Maybe they were over there. But something stopped me. I heard a whimpering noise behind me. I spun around. Huddled in a corner was a baby Mander. He was shaking with fear.
“Hey there, little guy.” I said. “Are you okay?” the little orange Mander continued to shake, then said,
“My parents were charmed slaves. I’m an orphan.” the little guy kept crying, obviously scared that Kroks were going to eat him or something. Probably that he was going to get charmed, too.
“It’s okay,” I coaxed. “I’m an orphan, too. You can live with me, since you don’t have any family.” the Mander sniffed.
“Really?” he said hopefully.
“Of course!” I declared, scooping him up into my arms. I don’t know why it happened then, but I realized that I was starving. I summoned a donut and a cup of pudding from thin air. I began eating the pudding first. The little Mander eyed it delightedly.
“Pudding!” he said eagerly. I guess that pudding was his favorite food, and that they didn’t have it in Krokotopia, because the Mander was looking at my cup of pudding as if it were the lost city of Atlantis. I magically made another smaller cup of pudding appear. I handed it to my new little friend, and he ecstatically began eating. “Pudding!” he said again, through a mouthful of, well, pudding.
“What’s your name? Do you have a name?” he shook his head and said, “Pudding.” I guess that was what I would name him.
“C’mon, Pudding,” I told Pudding. “I need to find some dogs.” I set him on the ground and said, “Can you walk pretty fast?” he nodded and I said, “Good. I’m gping to be walking a lot, just, try to keep up, okay?” Pudding nodded his little Mander head. I trotted towards the other side of the excavation again, this time with someone else following me. I walked up a slope and found one of the archaeologists.
“Hi’ I’m Elizabeth Iceblossom, and I’ve come to help out with, uhh, whatever you need help with.”
“Hello, Elizabeth. I’m Assistant Danforth. We need to find the keystone that gets us into the Palace of Fire. Then you can go there and help Lieutenant Standish and his troops.” Great, more helping. but if it got me home, I didn’t mind at all.
“So, where’s the keystone?” I asked nonchalantly.
“Buried somewhere at the digsite in Royal Hall. I hope you can find it, it’s buried somewhere beneath the surface of the sand. Good luck, and be on your way!” I nodded and started to teleport to Royal hall when I remembered Pudding. I doubted if he could teleport, but I bet I could bring him with me. I picked him up and said,
“I’m going to teleport somewhere, Pudding. I’m a wizard. Just, don’t panic or anything, okay?”
“Yes,” said Pudding. I visualized Royal Hall, took a step, and vanished in a flurry of sparks.



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