|“Things are worse than we imagined,” Serra begins.|
“The Wizard Council was aware of the Nightcrystal’s existence, of course, but they lost track of it many years ago. What with one thing and another, they were never able to track it down, and had resigned themselves to simply trusting the Guardian. Now that they know the Guardian is dead and the Nightcrystal itself taken, worse, broken, they are deeply concerned.”
“I would think that being broken, it would be less of a threat,” Red Tom ventures. Serra shakes her head.
“The Breaking of the Nightcrystal is the cause of all this,” she says, gesturing around them. Perilous Jack blinks, looking around in confusion.
She frowns at him, and then understanding dawns. “Right! You’ve been underground for a few days! Jack, it’s four in the afternoon.”
Jack blinks at her in surprise, looking again at the shadow surrounding them as if it might have been a trick of the eye before. But the darkness lingers. Four in the afternoon and it is as dark as midnight.
“It will only get worse,” Serra says. “The dead are rising. The night is coming sooner and lingering longer. Soon there will be eternal darkness, not just over the Mushroom Kingdom, but over all of Malkat. The creatures of the night will hold sway. And the Illithids and Beholders you saw – we can only guess what plans they have, when the darkness rules the face of Malkat. Jack, we must find and reassemble the Shards of the Nightcrystal. This mission comes above all else.”
Jack shakes his head. “I won’t leave Princess Vasilisa and the Lorikeet Guard in the hands of an evil Fire Giant.”
Serra opens her mouth to protest, and then closes it again. Who would Perilous Jack be if he weren’t the consummate hero? She shakes her head in something between admiration and grief. “So be it. I had a feeling you might say that. The Wizard Council has taken divinations; they believe the Shards are all hidden somewhere in the vicinity of the Plateau of the Endless. Apparently, they can only be held so far apart, and then only with united effort. The Shards want to be whole.”
“Perfect,” says Jack. “I journey to the Plateau. When I have rescued Vasilisa, I will remain on the Plateau and search out the Shards. I suggest you repair to the nearest temple of Yisod and do some divinations of your own. If you can locate even one of the Shards, then I will have a place to start my search – but only after Vasilisa is rescued.”
Serra nods. “I have already sent messages to the sisters at the Glittering Rime Temple in Maim. They are preparing the way for me now. I can take you there with me when I walk the Moon’s Path. It will get you closer, at least.”
Jack shakes his head. “There is another stop I must make on the way.” Serra raises an eyebrow.
“I need Magic Beans,” he says. “How else will I reach the castle of a Cloud Giant?”
Serra frowns. “The Beanstalks only flower once in a century. Where will you find Magic Beans?”
Jack smiles at her grimly. “I am told there is a Druid – not a friendly one, mind you – whose lair can be entered at the bottom of Foldoron Lake. I mean to go there. If anyone has Magic Beans, it will be him.”
Serra turns to Red Tom. “What of you, Tom? Will you accompany Perilous Jack?”
Tom shakes his head. “I have contacts in Saîd who may be able to shed some light on this conspiracy. If Jack doesn’t mind going solo, and if it’s not too much of a diversion from Maim, I think I’ll walk the Moon’s Path with you.”
Serra shrugs. “The Moon’s Path makes no distinction. Very well.”
They rise together, and Red Tom takes Jack by the arm before he can turn away. He holds out his hand and presses a pair of small objects into Jack’s hand.
“Take these; they may be of use.” Jack examines the objects. They look like a common pair of knucklebones, like those used by consummate gamblers – which Red Tom certainly is – except that they are several times larger than any knucklebones he has seen.
“Giant’s Knucklebones,” says Red Tom. “As long as you hold them in your hand, anything you say will be believed. Use with caution.” He says the latter with a felonious twinkle in his eye. Jack eyes the Knucklebones dubiously, but puts them in his pouch anyway.
“My thanks,” he says, and with hasty farewells, the adventurers part ways.
Add the following to the Journal: The breaking of the Nightcrystal heralds terrible changes for Malkat. The dead are rising; night falls earlier and lasts longer. Soon the darkness will spread over the entire world. The Illithids and Beholders have clearly concocted some terrible plot. The Shards of the Nightcrystal must be reassembled to restrain their magic.
The Wizard Council believes the Shards are hidden in the vicinity of the Plateau of the Endless, a fortuitous circumstance, as I am bound that way to rescue Princess Vasilisa.
I must journey to Foldoron Lake to obtain Magic Beans if I am to reach the castle of the Fire Giant.
The Giant’s Knucklebones, a gift from Red Tom, are magical. As long as I hold them in my hand, anything I say will be believed.
Add the Giant’s Knucklebones to the Pouch of Ghrul.
Congratulations! Thanks to you, Perilous Jack has obtained the Frost Potion and completed the first phase of his quest to rescue Princess Vasilisa. This is the end of Volume One. The adventure continues in Volume Two: Perilous Jack and the Magic Beans.
And remember, rescuing the Princess is only the beginning of Jack’s mission. The mystery of the Nightcrystal has yet to be solved . . .
Click here to continue to Volume Two.