Back at Henshu Monastery, the Healing Mother and the heroes look at the map using the new lantern and discover that the next lantern is in the western fishing village of Armitt Rie. So the Healing Mother and the heroes travel to the village.
They get to the village and there is a guard who refuses to let them in. “I am Queen Amaterien, the Healing Mother of Lanofeh,” the Healing Mother says. “We have come to see the Duke.” She flashes her staff in his face and he opens the gate, stunned.
As they enter Armitt Rie, they walk by villagers dressed in rags and thin.. Their shoulders droop and they shuffle between the shabby huts and muddy alley ways.
One hut they pass they can see in the tiny window. A mother and father are throwing their homespun clothes and stale, crusty bread into a grain sac. A small girl and small boy dressed in ragged clothes stand close to their parents. The children have big eyes and are shaking. Queen Amaterien, with her sharp hearing, can hear the father whisper, “Do not tell anyone that we are leaving tonight, children. This is a secret for only our family. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Papa!” they whisper back.
“Genavo,” says a soft woman’s voice, “do you think Zarvoxx and Rayla made it out?”
“I hope so!” the man answers back.
The Queen already had had her spies tell her what was going on in Armitt Rie. The Duke, evil and corrupt and from all reports extremely greedy, had been taxing the villagers so much so that they were starving. Not only that, but he had been twisting the teachings of Suzaro and using Him as an excuse to be cruel. All the love and compassion of Suzaro had been forgotten. The Queen had known that the villagers were suffering with starvation and were fleeing the village to seek their fortune elsewhere. They were doing so in secret because the Duke’s guards would jail anyone who tried to escape the village. But risking this cruel treatment was better than dying in the gutters.
The Healing Mother and the heroes finally come to the Duke’s palace, set on a hill overlooking the river.
Amaterien raps on the big door with her staff.
A wizened old man, bent over almost double, opens the wide double doors. He is dwarfed by the sheer massiveness of the huge wooden timbers.
“What do you want?” he asks, his voice rough and gravely and not hospitable at all!
“We have come to see the Duke! I am Queen Amaterien, the Healing Mother of Lanofeh. It’s of utmost importance!”
“Go away. The Duke doesn’t need you. Go back to the hovel you crawled out from.”
The Queen mutters under her breath, “I don’t have time for this.” She raises her staff and slams it to the ground. Blue light blinds the wizened old man and he flinches, grasping his eyes.
“Fine! Go upstairs and down the hall. He is in his chancery.”
They go upstairs and down the hall. The heroes keep looking around in amazement as they see gold chalices, ancient tapestries, and exquisite furniture, not to mention the tightly woven rugs that must have cost a fortune!
Amaterien raps on the door at the end of the hallway. A tall blond man opens the door. He’s dressed in velvet finery from head to toe, a peacock feather sticking out of his brown velvet cap. He is almost as wide as the door and his belly protrudes out of his embroidered jacket.
“What do you want, old man? I told you to leave me alone!”
His eyes get wide when he realizes it is not his servant, but the Queen standing before him with her heroes.
“Queen Amaterien, most royal Duke. I have come to warn you of the danger you’re in and to ask for your help.”
“Oh, my dear Healing Mother! I’ve been expecting you! Come on in!”
He steps aside to make room for them.
“Well, your guard and your servant sure were not expecting us!”
“Oh yes. I guess I must have forgotten to share that with them. Hmmmmm.” He smiles but the smile is hideous and bent. A gold tooth flashes behind his lips, which he smacks.
“As a matter of fact, my dear queen,” he says, his smile still crooked, “we are having a feast tonight. We would be honored if you would be my guest!”
“And we accept, my lord Duke.”
The Duke calls for his servant and the wizened old man takes them to their rooms where they rest and get refreshed. When it is dinner time, they make their way down to the great hall on the main floor. Mahogany wood and ornate crystal chandeliers line the spacious room.
Rota whispers to the Queen, “This Duke appears to be quite well off!”
The Queen raises an eyebrow. “That is quite an understatement!”
They are eating dinner and all the heroes are amazed. The people in the village are obviously starving and in the palace there was this great feast? The Healing Mother and the heroes can barely eat.
All of a sudden, they hear shouts from outside the palace and a messenger comes running inside the great hall where the feast is being held.
“My Lord, bandits are attacking the village! They came from nowhere out of the thickets of the forest!”
The Healing Mother, heroes, and the Duke rush outside. Desperate men, half-starved and in a rage, are advancing to the palace with torches, pitchforks, and shovels.
Then suddenly, a horrible screeching is heard from the east side of the village and a flash of light and mist bursts forth.
“It’s a rift opening up!” cries the Healing Mother! “They’re coming!”
The palace guards rush to defend the village. The Healing Mother and heroes prepare to meet the monsters. The bandits pay no attention to the monsters and keep coming.
The Healing Mother advances toward the bandits.
“Halt, in the name of Suzaro. What is your purpose here? We have a bigger enemy to fight!”
A tall big man with a giant battle ax, big beard, and long hair steps forward.
“I am Ralin the Ax. I demand justice for the Duke’s cruelty. We have come to free the villagers who remain faithful to Suzaro and after they are gone, to burn it to the ground!”
The Duke scowled at him. “Ralin, you miserable dog! How dare you come back here with these miserable villagers! Be gone!”
“No, Duke! Your filthy bloodlust and corrupted ways stole my daughter from me! Just barely turned seven and she dies of starvation. It’s because of your cruelty and you will pay!” His voice shakes and his eyes flash like flames of fire.
Just then, growling from the other side of the village increases into a roar. The monsters are almost to the gate!
“They are coming,” says the Healing Mother. “We need to stop fighting here and defend the villagers against the monsters.”
“Let the monsters take the Duke and the palace, and all those who do not follow the ways of Suzaro! The Duke is twisted and corrupt and has forgotten His teaching of love and compassion. Wrath will fall upon him by his own hands but I, Ralin the Ax, will remove his head with my ax! This village will burn for what he has done and may the monsters take him!”
The Healing Mother sighs, annoyed. She calls to Rota. “Take some of the heroes and look for the lantern. We know it is in the Duke’s palace! Go now and look fast and most of all, find it fast and bring it to me! Quickly!”
She turns to the Duke. “My lord, it is time you left this cruelty aside and turn from your wicked ways. You have taught these ill-thought-out beliefs and incorrect ways of Suzaro long enough. They are not His ways but your selfish ways fueled by your greed. Stop and come to the true light!”
The Duke laughs at her. “You think you know everything. You do not. Go now and take your little children with you. We don’t need you!”
Ralin the Ax motioned to his followers. “Let’s get that cur! He’s lower than a dog!”
“No, Ralin!” cries out Amaterien, holding her hand out and at the same time hitting her staff on the ground. “Smite!” she yells. The bandits are frozen. The palace guards are frozen. “This is not the way, Ralin! This is not Suzaro’s way!”
By this time, all the villagers who remained in Armitt Rie, who had not managed to escape, had come out of their meager straw huts, including the family that the Healing Mother and the heroes had overheard making plans to sneak out. All of the palace guards also stood at the ready beside the Duke.
“To me!” cries Ralin. “All who would avenge our loved ones!”
The Duke roars. “Ralin is the real evil here. Cut him and his rebel villagers down!”
At these words, there is mass confusion. Most villagers go with Ralin. Some of the palace guards go to the side of Ralin. A few villagers go behind the line of the Duke.
The Healing Mother and the Heroes stand in the middle.
What are they going to do? What side are they going to fight on?
The Healing Mother does not hesitate. “Heroes, we must fight the real fight! To the monsters! These villagers will just have to work it out themselves!”
Then two things happen at the same time: Rota and the heroes who had gone to find the lantern come running back, triumphant. They hold aloft the lantern crying, “what was lost is found!” Along with the heroes, two old men—emaciated and dressed in rags—scramble out behind them, joy lighting their faces.
The moment Rota and the others cry out, the Duke clutches his heart. Seizures grip him and he crumples to the ground, lifeless.
“And so the Duke meets his demise.” The Queen looks down on the stricken man. His boot had come off in the struggle and she could see the swollen red skin in the joint below the big toe.
“And so he dies of his gluttony. Gout has been afflicting him for some time, so it seems, and finally got to his heart.”
She turns her attention toward the heroes and the lantern.
“What have you brought us, my good men?”
Rota hands the lantern to the Healing Mother. “We have found the lantern in a prison with these two astronomers. They were held prisoner because they proved the sun rotates around the earth.”
“Why, of course it does! Every Vandarian knows that! It’s a pity that you were held prisoner! Thank you for guarding the lantern!”
They hear screams from the other side of the village.
“Now, to vanquish these monsters!”
The Healing Mother holds the lantern aloft with one hand and her staff in the other. Her sword rests on her back in her trusty scabbard. She charges and the heroes, villagers, and palace guards follow, all enmity forgotten in the light of the lantern.
Between the lantern and the flaming blue gem of the Queen’s staff, a blinding light envelopes the monsters. The love of Suzaro floods each and every person—hero, villager, and palace guard. They are filled with joy and all thought of fighting leaves them. The monsters cower in fear.
A gaping hole starts ripping the earth apart below and around the monsters.
“Praise be to Suzaro! He is the victor!”
The heroes, palace guards, and villagers take up the cry:
“Praise be to Suzaro! He is the victor!”
Suddenly the earth shifts and the gaping hole is gone. And the monsters are gone.
The stars shine above and shine brightly.
“Come, villagers of Armitt Rie. Let us form a council where the foundation is the love and compassion of Suzaro.”
And that is exactly what they do!