|For many days Perilous Jack wanders the treacherous ruins of the Old Ones’ empire, and every day the darkness comes a few minutes sooner and lingers a few minutes longer.|
The ruins are stalked by the dead, and by nocturnal hunters roused to unfamiliar routines by the lengthening night. The ruins of the Old Ones’ cities are ancient places, haunted by terrible creatures best forgotten by time, and so it is with relief that Jack leaves the titanic architecture behind and enters the verge of the TowaShroom Forest.
He is disappointed; there is little relief to be found from the strangeness of the coming night. Among the upper reaches of the TowaShrooms the Rust Birds swarm in great numbers, diving and shrieking disconsolately to themselves. Although Jack’s metal armor and weapons would ordinarily be attractive to them and earn the warrior a hard fight, they seem not to notice him at all, so intent are they on their private distress. Doubtless, Jack surmises, they are lamenting the loss of the familiar sun, for Rust Birds are day hunters, their eyes well attuned to the sparkle of sunlight on tasty steel.
A further encounter heightens his awareness of the strange changes wrought by the breaking of the Nightcrystal. Deeper in the TowaShroom Forest, he encounters a pack of eerily glowing green Wolfweres, followed in turn by their master – an Ice Ogre wielding a huge club of magically hardened ice. Both of these creatures are so rare to the southern parts of the Mushroom Kingdom that Jack cannot help but wonder at the pitiable conditions to the north, in Winter’s Palace and beyond, where such monsters are native. Has the darkness spread there? Do the tundra creatures, already cursed with nights that last for days and weeks at a time, now stifle under the blanket of unending darkness?
Jack has no further time to speculate. The Wolfweres, foul shapeshifters born in the shape of wolves, but possessing the ability to take human-like form, leap forward, baring their glowing fangs. Perilous Jack dives into the fray, the howls of the Wolfweres ringing in his ears.