The Cloud Castle – Page 91


Her beauty remains.

Yet the woman who stands before him is in no way the mirror of the titan who hovered near the ceiling a moment before. She is an Elf, he notes with surprise – the point of her ears, the slant of her eyes, the sylvan tinge to her hair all betray it. She regards him with mingled wonder and sorrow.

“How came I here?” she whispers.

Jack reaches out a hand, and she takes it. The contact seems to restore her senses somewhat, and she regards him closely. “Perilous Jack the Dragonslayer,” she says. The warrior nods, unsure what her sudden scrutiny portends.

Sensing his distrust, she laughs. “My name is Sela-Ffionath, as you have said, though precious few know that name. To most I am simply the Emerald Flame. Have you heard my name, Perilous Jack, son of Hartshorne? I am a Knight-Commander of Elfame, the refuge of the Elves.” Her tone loses its laughter, and she falls into musing. “Yet I know not how came I here.”

“There is a vast conspiracy afoot,” says Jack. “Illithids, Beholders, and Cloud Giants conspire together. The Nightcrystal is shattered, and I cannot guess the consequences of that, save the dawning darkness I have seen in my travels.”

Sela-Ffionath’s eyes widen. “The Nightcrystal! Jack, that is why they took me! Into four pieces they shattered it, and keep them apart they must, lest the darkness retreat within the Crystal again. Four Guardians they require, and I – I was the first.” She suddenly reaches forth and grasps Jack’s forearms. “Jack, you must find the others. One of the Shards of the Nightcrystal is concealed here, but you must assemble them all if you are to stop the Dark from spreading!”

“I will,” says Perilous Jack. “But first, I must rescue a girl – a captive of the Cloud Giant.”

“Princess Vasilisa,” says Sela-Ffionath. “Yes, you must see her far from here, to safety and concealment. The Gods only know what these villainous conspirators might accomplish with her in their grasp.”

Jack knits his brow in puzzlement. “What do you mean? She is a girl, a Princess to be sure, and no end of trouble for her guardians, but she seems no more than that.”

Sela-Ffionath nods sagely. “It is perhaps best you do not know the whole truth just yet, Perilous Jack. It is enough that you know the girl must be rescued, the Cloud Giant slain, the Shard of the Nightcrystal reclaimed, the others located. This is enough to trouble your mind, O Jack.”

Jack considers a moment and then shakes his head. “I don’t care. Teach me how to rescue the Princess and reclaim the Shard. The rest may come in time.”

Sela-Ffionath smiles at his resolve. “Well said. Very well, Perilous Jack. I will tell you what I know. In the next chamber, you will find the Shard. Three of the conspirators may be found with it – a Priest and a Wizard of the Illithids, and a Beholder. All the power and concentration of these three is required to keep the Shard active. Without their attention, the Shard will fall dormant and begin to drift toward its companion pieces. The power of the Dark will be diminished. Slay these three – the task will be easy, as they will be focused upon their task – and the Shard is yours. I shall lead the way for you.”

Jack looks about the chamber in which they stand. In the direction she indicated, a Green Pipe pours a steady stream of lava into a pool below. To leave the chamber necessitates flying through the stream of lava.

“Do not be concerned with the lava, Jack. I will part the flow, that we may pass. You can fly?”

Jack nods and touches the Lorikeet Ribbon.

“Very well,” says Sela-Ffionath, the Emerald Flame and Knight-Commander of Elfame. “Forward.”

Add the following to Jack’s Journal: Sela-Ffionath, the Emerald Flame, hints that Princess Vasilisa has some hidden significance – what can this mean?

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