|Perilous Jack emerges from the GreenShaft into bright sunlight and a scene of fire and confusion.|
He is in the courtyard of a castle – can it be part of the very same flaming fortress he entered moments ago? He is bewildered. Around him are CacheStone platforms – and a horde of foes! Red Bones, fearsome undead creatures attuned to the element of fire, converge on him from every direction. In the center of the horde urging on the skeletal monsters stands a wizard in a black cloak.
A Beanstalk towers overhead, tugging at his urgent desire to find a way to the Cloud Kingdom. The foliage of the massive plant shakes with the effort of a humanoid, who clambers swiftly up and out of sight before Jack can identify it. Could this be the source of the screams Jack has followed? Or was it merely the wizard, feigning distress to lure him in? He turns his eyes back to the man.
The resemblance to Jack’s friend Dark Simon is uncanny; this mage may belong to the same dark order known as The Cloak that Dark Simon left behind years ago. If this is true, it bodes poorly for the Plateau of the Endless – for Cloak Wizards are only to be found where dark conspiracies are brooding. Can it be that this wizard’s purpose here relates to the Breaking of the Nightcrystal? There is no time to speculate; the Red Bones are upon him.
The skeletal monsters, taken alone, would be little threat. En masse, they are quite a bit more challenging. Jack briefly debates the magical aid of a Fire Flower, and then laughs at himself for the folly – the Red Bones are immune to that element.
On a CacheStone platform above him, the dark wizard begins to chant and gesture, preparing a magical spell. As more of the Red Bones stream in to attack, Jack realizes that this is his only moment. The wizard is the real foe here; without his magic to animate the skeletal warriors, they will likely collapse or wander off. Jack calls upon the magic of the Seven League Boots to leap over the heads of the flailing Red Bones, landing on the platform just in time narrowly to dodge a column of flame shot from the wizard’s fingertips. Jack and the wizard eye each other for a split second, and then the wizard snarls a syllable. Jack feels magic wash over him – to no effect. The wizard has not noticed the failure of his spell, however, and judging by the slow sneer on the man’s face and his now-leisurely attitude, Jack can guess that the wizard meant it to be a spell of paralysis. Jack is intimately familiar with the wearisome arrogance of wizards and is more than happy to play along.
“I don’t know who sent you, warrior, but they cannot stop what is coming. The darkness will eat the world alive. You, at least, will be spared the agony.” With these words, the wizard slowly begins to gesture and chant again, no doubt preparing a spell to destroy Jack.
“Do you think your masters will spare you?” Jack asks. The wizard, shocked to hear him speak when he thought the hero enfeebled, speeds up his spell casting. But Jack is quicker! The Rune Sword finds its home in the wizard’s belly, and the last syllables of the spell die on blood-flecked lips. All around, the Red Bones collapse in heaps. The wizard topples off the platform into the tangle of bones below, and Jack pauses for a moment to ponder his words. There can be no doubt a vast conspiracy is afoot . . . but the knowledge is of little use here.
Jack lingers only long enough to search the Cloak Wizard’s body. He finds a purse of gold, a Potion of Healing, a Spellbook, and a curious Pendant worked with a stylized design of a lion swallowing a hummingbird. He puts these new finds in the Pouch of Ghrul and stands, eyeing the Beanstalk.
He begins to climb.
Add the following to Jack’s Journal: I have encountered a Cloak Wizard who claims to have knowledge of the Nightcrystal. I wonder if he is in league with the Illithids and Beholders?
Add 25 Gold, a Potion of Healing, the Cloak Wizard’s Spellbook, and the Lion Pendant to the Pouch of Ghrul.