|Perilous Jack emerges from the Warp Portal to the sensation of incredible, overpowering heat.|
He leaps down onto a steel platform and instantly regrets the motion, for the metal is quite hot. Peering carefully over the edge of the platform, Jack recoils in horror. Below him rages an immense sea of flame, the borders of which are beyond the limits of his sight. He has heard tell of the Elemental Plane of Fire, an alternate universe where all is lava and flame, but never imagined he might find himself there – especially not after the adventure he has just suffered. Did he choose poorly, he wonders?
Far, far below him, the flame parts, giving way to an immense Head, horned and bearded like the union of goat and bull. The Head is vaster than any mountain Jack has ever seen. In the center of the Head shines a golden Pentacle, brilliant as a sun, and carved with Runes of Power that hurt Jack’s eyes to look upon. As he stares in wide-eyed wonder, the Pentacle stretches and grows, taking on humanoid form. The shape increases, gaining size and definition, until it is clearly the body of a woman, perched upon the brow of the great Head. The woman is beautiful beyond belief, clad only in wisps of electric blue energy.
Malkat – for surely it is the Grain Goddess Herself – stands many times taller than any human and radiates all the raw power of her worshippers’ faith. Indeed, it strikes Jack that the flames dancing around her must be the flames of sacrifice, the hearth fires lit in her name, the flames used to burn the first bushel of grain harvested, the flames of ardor, love, and worship that burn in the hearts of countless men.
Those same fires are kindled again in Jack’s heart. He remembers the songs and sacrifices of his youth, and weeps for the joy of seeing the Goddess in person.
“Forgive me, Divine Lady,” he whispers. “I have fallen from your faith.”
In his mind, he hears her response: No, Jack. You have never lost your faith, only forgotten for a moment that it was there. I did not forget.
The flames dim somewhat – or else Jack is adapting – and across the way he sees a second platform, and beyond it a third. A Minotaur waits for him on the second platform. At the Goddess’s urging, Perilous Jack leaps across to meet his foe. The Minotaur, like those of the Labyrinth above, wields the curious purple-bladed battle-axe. Jack recognizes his own armor and clothing on the beast, much ruptured and tattered by sudden transformation. His own pouch hangs at the creature’s belt, and his own sword and dagger hang forgotten, in favor of the purple axe. The message is plain; herein lies his fate, should he have chosen to propitiate the Dark Bull with the Black Horn still in his pouch.