|The music of the Singing Stone fades, and Perilous Jack finds himself standing at the edge of the Pit of the Red Orb.|
Overhead, the Singing Stone he struck days ago – for surely it must have been days he wandered in the Labyrinth of Malkat? – fades out of sync with his universe even as he watches, the magic of the Fairy Dust spent at last. It is night, deep night.
Suddenly Jack becomes aware of shapes moving in the murk, and the shouting of a familiar voice. Across the Pit, strange lights bob toward him, unholy shades of purple and green. They are Will-O’Wisps, evil creatures of the fairy realm that appear in the form of distant bobbing lantern lights to lure swamp-travelers to a watery grave. Suddenly a familiar tall figure, thin as a rapier and draped in outlandish scarlet, rears up bellowing a magical phrase. It is Red Tom, Jack’s childhood friend; a thief, con man, and sometime spellcaster who has shared many of Jack’s perilous adventures. A globe of eldritch green flame blossoms from the thief’s outstretched arm, flying free and expanding to engulf the Will-O’Wisps.
Distracted by peering across the Pit, Jack almost doesn’t notice the shape moving behind him. Suddenly he whirls, catching a rusty cutlass across his own sword just in time. The powerful Rune Sword flares with golden light in the presence of an enemy, radiating magic might. His opponent reeks of death and musty fabric; he is garbed in an ancient cloak patched with mold and slime and wields a curved sword of obsolete design.
Lightning flashes from a platform overhead, and in the flickering light, Jack sees that his opponent is among the walking dead; his flesh is nearly rotted away, revealing much of the skeleton beneath. What remains wriggles with worms and swamp eels. Suddenly Jack remembers passing a swamp on his way to the Pit of the Red Orb. The dead man before him – and now he sees more on FloatStone platforms overhead – must have risen from the murky waters of the swamp with the coming of night. And the Will-O’Wisps across the Pit from him must have strayed from their age-old task of luring travelers to their deaths in the waters of the swamp.
As Jack does battle with the undead wanderer and a pair of Will-O’Wisps, he catches a glimpse of the activity on the platform overhead. More lightning – an unusual combination of blue and gold energy – erupts, and a pair of corpses tumbles, crackling with the radiant energy of the spell. Serra the True pokes her head over the edge of the platform, and Jack understands the power he has witnessed – as a priestess of a good deity, Serra wields the power of Holy Smiting, allowing her to disrupt the necromantic tissues of the undead. Serra leaps from her platform to the ground as Red Tom’s magic succeeds in dispersing the evil Will-O’Wisps, while Jack finishes off the walking corpse before him. After greetings and embraces, the friends stand together examining the bodies of the undead warriors.
“The personal bodyguard of the Seventh Baron Asmervig,” Serra says, toeing the insignia still barely visible on the cloak of the warrior Jack has killed. The others wear similarly cut cloaks in various colors, and matching sabers lie near their skeletal hands. “They were driven into the Swamp of Long Time about three hundred years ago. The murder of the Baron initiated the War of White Flowers, which pit the Houses of Asmervig and Melen against each other.” She smiles up at Jack. “Benefits of a noble education,” she says with an ironic grin. Her face becomes more serious. “In any case, I’ve never heard of the Baron’s Guard emerging from the Swamp – neither have I heard of Will-O’Wisps leaving their chosen waters. More mischief caused by the Nightcrystal, I wager.”
“I take it you have met with the Royal Council, then?” Jack asks. Serra nods gravely and beckons him and Red Tom away from the scene of carnage, to a low platform nearby, where they sit to confer.
Jack pauses to strike the CacheStones with his StarSteel Hammer, yielding two discs of StarSteel for his Pouch. Then he turns to examine the fallen weapons of his undead foes. Two of the blades near his feet are rusted and worn, but the third is still in excellent repair. The blade shines with unusual luster; perhaps it is silver? Jack sheathes the sword, thrusts it into the Pouch of Ghrul, and hastens to catch up with his friends.