Trial by Fire

Trial by Fire: Illustrations

Trial by Fire, Chapter 20: Endings and Beginnings

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is the Epilogue.)

The party, the mistwolves, some elves, and the refugees from Ravenswood gather together at the Fairy Glen to celebrate the defeat of the Dark Sorceress. It’s both a joyous and somber occasion: everyone’s happy that Aldenmor is healing, but Stormbringer is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Adriane gets to join the mistwolves in their mourning rites, which is just a Wolfsong performed by the entire pack. (Kinda hard to have a Fantasy Funeral Pyre when there’s no body.) Afterwards, Moonshadow and Silver Eyes tell Adriane that, yes, it hurts when a loved one dies. They then present Dreamer to her, and the two of them bond. Aww.

Later, the Fairimentals show up (originally, it’s only Gwigg and Ambia; they’re joined by Marina in the revision), and tell the party that they healed Aldenmor and fulfilled the Generic Fantasy Prophecy. Now they get to protect Earth and improve their magic skills. However, the new edition suggests that the party’s quest has only just begun:

The Fairimentals gathered at the portal. “It has been a long time since magic has flowed across the strands of the web.”

“Did I release Avalon’s magic?” Kara asked.

“We do not know,” Gwigg rustled.

“But the prophecy … didn’t we find Avalon?” Emily asked.

“The prophecy can only guide us,” the Earth Fairimental explained. “It can mean different things. You make it your own as you walk your path.”

“I was on this island,” Kara insisted. “There were the most beautiful fairy wraiths there.”

“There are wraiths and sylphs who guard the most special of magical places.” Ambia fluttered on a cool breeze.

“What the blazing star found was the Gates of Avalon,” Gwigg said.

The mages glanced at one another.

“The wraiths said we need a key,” Kara said.

“That is correct,” Gwigg replied.

“A key? What’s in Avalon?” Emily asked.

Ambia shook her head sadly. “Avalon has been lost to us for a very long time.”

Moonshadow stepped forward. “In my spirit vision, I saw the crystal city, broken and covered in webs. It was a dark place.”

Gwigg trembled, twigs and leaves falling to the ground. “We fear for Avalon.”

“I saw a different Avalon.” Kara stepped forward. “It was beautiful, an incredible city sparkling with lights.”

The animals gasped.

“It means the future is uncertain, in motion, constantly changing.” Ambia twinkled brightly.

Okay, so the party needs to find this Key, and open the Gates of Avalon. Too bad that Kara’s and Moonshadow’s visions contradict one another’s, and that nobody actually knows what’s in Avalon in the first place. That seems important. Also, the party can’t get to the Gates of Avalon on their own anymore, since the Fairy Maps were destroyed. (Wait … when were they destroyed, exactly? Did they self-destruct when Kara activated them, or were they lost when the Dark Circle collapsed? Also, can’t the Fairimentals just make new ones?)

The Fairimentals open a portal that shows the denizens of Aldenmor and the Fairy Realms pledging themselves to the party’s service. Yay, allies. When the portal opens upon the elf villages, the Fairimentals give Ozzie a Sparkly Rock and name him a Knight of the Circle. It’s not explained why he’s called a Knight of the Circle in the books beyond “yay, you’re a defender of Avalon”, but there’s some more information in the supplementary materials. But, yay, Ozzie may become more useful in the future! Too bad he has to remain in ferret form when he returns to Earth with the party, though. Ozzie is given a chance to return to his elven self, but he decides that being a ferret and hanging out with the party is preferable, for now.

And then the party goes home, and all is right with the universe, I guess.

Status Update!
Adriane bonds with Dreamer!
Ozzie obtains: Ferret Stone!

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • Emily doesn’t ask the Fairimentals about the Key or what’s in Avalon.
  • Emily waves at Phel when he appears in the portal.

Next time: A brief recap of “Dragonfly Wrangling 102”.

Trial by Fire, Chapter 19: An Easy Solution

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 17.)

Adriane, Kara, and Lyra finally make it back to the crystal chamber, only to find Emily and Zach trying to help the entire mistwolf pack. The mistwolves are trying to keep a massive green cloud of potentially bad magic from spreading, and (in the new edition) Emily is complaining that she can’t just spam Heal and keep the wolves from getting hurt again. The party realizes that they have to do something about the ominous, possibly radioactive cloud. So Emily casts Protection from Radiation, Kara amplifies the spell, and Adriane strengthens it somehow. They fire this Improved Protection from Radiation spell at the cloud, and it goes away.

Hey, party — maybe you should market your Magical Nuclear Waste clean-up method on Earth. I can think of a few places that seriously need it.

Anyway, after the party casts their awesome spell, the crystal chamber starts to collapse. The party leads all the wolves out of the place, but Adriane stays behind briefly to find Stormbringer. She’s nowhere to be found, though. Eventually the party convinces Adriane to leave, and they all escape from the crumbling dungeon.

Outside, magic is raining, and the Shadowlands start to recover from their nuked-out state. The wolves tell Adriane that Stormbringer was able to keep the pack alive because she thought of her bonded mage. Aww, ain’t that precious.

For those of you who haven’t read the series: How dead do you think Stormbringer is? You think she’s gonna come back? No body was found, so I’m gonna guess she’ll be back … somehow.

Status Update!
The party learns: Improved Protection from Radiation! (Which they never use again.)

Next time: Ozzie becomes more useful, and the party gets a new quest.

Trial by Fire, Chapter 18: New Abilities as the Plot Demands

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 16.)

While Adriane’s fighting the Sorceress and Kara’s off in realms that aren’t Aldenmor, Emily, Ozzie, and Zach are trying to save the trapped mistwolves. Emily casts Heal, and immediately realizes that she got new abilities after saving those irradiated elves earlier. She now has an immunity to radiation poisoning, and can cast Protection from Radiation. Wow, ain’t that convenient. So Emily casts her new spell, but a strong wave of magic (the one Kara summoned a few chapters back) hits the crystals, causing them to crack. Emily tells Zach to destroy the crystals — that way, the mistwolves will be free, and Emily can cast Heal on them. Zach fires a few Magic Missiles, thus freeing the wolves. Yay.

Meanwhile, back in the Sorceress’ lair, Adriane’s still fighting her boss battle. The Sorceress senses a disturbance in the crystal chamber, and realizes that her crystals were destroyed. She then tells Adriane, “Nice job breaking it, heroine.” You see, breaking the crystals released Black Fire, which — as we all know — causes magical radiation poisoning.

And then a portal opens in the lair, and everyone’s favorite manticore shows up. Except something’s a little off with this manticore … it has a flock of dragonflies circling around its head. The Sorceress commands the manticore to beat the stuffing out of Adriane, but the manticore refuses and attacks the Sorceress instead.

Soon Adriane notices that Kara is the manticore — come on, it has dragonflies and speaks in Kara’s voice — and rejoins the fight. Adriane rolls a 20 and punches the Sorceress into the portal Kara came through, thus trapping her in the Otherworlds for the time being.

Of course, we know that the Sorceress will probably return as a more powerful and annoying boss later. But the party doesn’t know that. Instead, they rejoice, because they finally defeated the main antagonist. Yay.

Their celebration is cut short, though: Emily sends the party a psychic SOS. Oh noes.

Status Update!
Emily gained: immunity to radiation poisoning!
Emily learned: Protection from Radiation Poisoning!
Zach learned: Magic Missile!

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • The Dark Sorceress doesn’t ask manticore!Kara “What trickery is this?”

Next time: The girls clean up some magical nuclear waste.

Trial by Fire, Chapter 17: An Unorthodox Boss Battle

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 15.)

Kara appears in the Otherworlds, which is a dusky place populated by barren trees and everyone’s favorite Skultum in the guise of Johnny Conrad. Not!Johnny does the usual “You Suck, Heroine!” taunting that all antagonists do. Kara’s sick and tired of it, of course … and then she remembers that she’s armed! So that means she can finally start a boss battle!

Boss: Skultum (this is the last time, I swear!)
Make him say his name, and he dies! Yay!
Attacks: You should know this by now.

But wait, how can Kara get the Skultum to say his name? Magic Missile is obviously not going to do the trick. Kara thinks really, really hard … and the dragonflies show up. The dragonflies make a bunch of shapes in the air, and hint that they know the Skultum’s new name. (How do they know it?) Not!Johnny is distracted by the frolicking dragonflies, and in the new edition he’s impressed that Kara bonded with them. (Apparently dragonflies don’t bond with anybody … usually.)

Kara gets the bright idea to play a sort of “dragonfly charades”. She thinks of a word, the dragonflies spell it out by contorting into letters, and the Skultum has to guess the word. The two do this for a while before Kara ups the ante: the dragonflies spell the words backwards, and Kara and the Skultum have to guess the words while doing headstands. This proves to be a hit, because the Skultum is laughing and enjoying himself. He’s so caught up in the game that, when Kara gets the dragonflies to spell the Skultum’s true name backwards, the Skultum blurts out the answer … and then goes poof!

The Skultum’s name is different, depending on which edition you’re reading. It’s Cigam in the original edition, and Howard in the new edition.

Yay! Kara beat a boss on her own, and she got the Skultum’s shapeshifting powers, too! Now it’s time for her to help her friends back on Aldenmor. Luckily, she has the dragonflies around to make a portal for her….

Status Update!
Kara learns: Polymorph!

Next time: Emily and Zach gain new abilities, and Adriane continues her boss battle.

Trial by Fire, Chapter 16: Places We’ve Been Before

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 14.)

Kara arrives at a very foggy place the Gates of Avalon again. We know it’s the Gates of Avalon because a) the sexy fairy wraiths from All That Glitters show up, b) the wraiths tell Kara that she is at the Gates (new edition only), and c) Kara can see the Gates — an island encircled by three stone rings — just offshore (new edition only).

The fairy wraiths give Kara the same test as before: can she see the Gates of Avalon or not? This time, Kara passes with flying colors. In the original edition, the fog lifts and Kara sees the aforementioned island. The revised edition gives Kara a rather trippy vision of Avalon:

The waters fell away into stars. Golden lines spiraled and looped into the distance — the magic web.

Mesmerized by the intricate beauty of the web, Kara stared as images turned like pages from an ancient book. Deep, rich forests, sun-kissed fairy meadows, crystal-peaked mountains, glittering lakes of blue — she was looking at Aldenmor! It was so beautiful she could barely contain herself.

[…]

Suddenly the image zoomed across the web to another place, a place untouched by time. A glorious city appeared like something out of a dream. Crystalline spires rose against skies of blue and white. Magic sparkled like city lights — a city of magic!

The wraiths explain (in the new edition) that Kara saw Avalon “as it once was” and “as it will be again”. Hooray! Unfortunately, Kara still hasn’t met all the requirements for entering the Very Definitely Final Dungeon:

“The Gates of Avalon are locked.” The wraith pointed to the mysterious island.

“Only three mages together may enter the Gates,” another wraith said. “With the key.”

Kara still needs magic to save Aldenmor, though, so the wraiths give Kara the Unicorn Jewel she returned the last time they met. With Sparkly Rock in hand, Kara summons magic from the island — but not before asking the wraiths what the hell a Blazing Star is. They don’t give much of an answer beyond “you guide magic along the right path”.

Whatever, Kara calls forth magic, and is suddenly sucked into the Otherworlds.

Meanwhile, the Dark Sorceress is pissed. Instead of opening a portal to the Gates of Avalon, the Fairy Maps that Kara activated summoned that damn unicorn. The original edition explains that this was a fail-safe built into the maps. The Sorceress isn’t too worried about this turn of events in the old edition: she realizes that there are other sources of magic she can find on the web. (Remember, in the original edition, the Sorceress failed the test at the Gates of Avalon, so she doesn’t believe Avalon exists.)

Moments later, the Sorceress senses strong magic heading straight for her crystals! There’s something odd about this magic, though, in the new edition:

Gripping the stone pedestal, she reached out, but it was not the magic of Avalon she felt. It was familiar, magic she had never thought to touch again. The sorceress laughed aloud. Here she was trying to build a new key, and the blazing star had just found the original key to the Gates of Avalon!

Wait … so the Key was at the Gates of Avalon all this time? What kind of idiot just left it there?

Anyway, the Sorceress tries to tap into her crystals, but is locked out by Stormbringer somehow. While she’s distracted, Adriane and Lyra show up for a boss battle!

Boss: Dark Sorceress (again!)
Formerly a Warrior mage. This should be interesting.
Attacks: Fireball, Confuse, Force Push

After lots of taunting and the usual “You Suck, Party!” phrases, the Sorceress calls for reinforcements. However, Adriane does the same! Drake shows up outside and totally pwns whatever reinforcements the Sorceress summoned. Now the boss battle can commence properly.

Adriane fires some Magic Missiles, and even throws a few Fireballs (which is just Adriane spamming Wolf Whirl). However, the Sorceress is utterly unfazed by all of Adriane’s attacks, and just casts Confuse and Force Push. She then taunts Adriane some more, saying that she’ll build a crystal to harvest the party’s magic.

Status Update!
Kara obtained: Unicorn Jewel!
Adriane learned: Fireball!

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • Kara arrives at the Gates of Avalon, instead of an island just offshore:

    Kara stood in a ring of stone. Mist rose from the glittering mosaic floor. The tiles were pristine, ageless, untouched by sand, undamaged by wind and sun. Giant pillars surrounded the pattern of interlocking stones, their towering surfaces sparkling with colorful gems. In the distance, palms swayed in the breeze as the roiling sound of waves lapped upon the shore. She was on an island somewhere.

  • Kara doesn’t realize that she’s been to the Gates of Avalon before.
  • Kara asks the wraiths how to reach Avalon, instead of asking if the city she saw in her vision is Avalon.
  • The fairy wraiths freely give Kara the Unicorn Jewel:

    “And now we give to the one who can truly wield it. Make it yours.”

  • Kara summons the magic of the Power Crystals differently:

    Suddenly, the entire island seemed to melt away as waves of energy swirled around her. Golden hair flowing, Kara threw her arms open wide.

  • The Dark Sorceress doesn’t wonder if Kara opened the last portal in the sequence. Instead:

    Had the blazing star changed the portal path? No, impossible! The mage was too inexperienced.

Next time: Kara fights a boss by making him answer questions in the most absurd way possible while wearing a towel on his head.

Trial by Fire, Chapter 15: In Which a Lot of Stuff Happens

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 13.)

I might be super-nice today and do two chapters, since Thanksgiving is coming up for me and all my American readers. Expect Chapter 16/14 later tonight.

So after the party (Adriane, Emily, Lyra, Ozzie, and Zach) finish laughing about Ozzie’s addiction to banana milkshakes, they get back to backtracking through the lower levels of the Dark Circle. Eventually Adriane and Zach detect something … which turns out to be Dreamer. Thanks to his one ability (Detect Magic), Dreamer was able to find the party. The party decides to exploit Dreamer’s one skill in making their way back to the crystal chamber of doom.

Meanwhile, Kara’s riding on that mysterious white unicorn again, following the path Kara opened with the Fairy Map. (Originally, the unicorn recreates the path Kara revealed on the Map.) All the unicorn tells Kara is that they’re going “home”.

Back in the dungeons, the party finally finds a familiar room: the crystal foundry Adriane passed by on her initial escape all the way back in Cry of the Wolf. There’s not much there now but broken crystals covered with Black Fire residue. The party realizes that this is the source of all that magical nuclear fallout. They decide not to enter the room, but their rationale differs between editions. Originally, Zach says that there isn’t much to do in there. In the new edition, there’s actually something hazardous in the room (you would think so, with the radioactive crystals and all):

“Careful.” Lyra pushed Ozzie aside as he almost stepped in a puddle of glowing poison. Sections of the stone floor had been eaten away where the toxic substance had settled.

“Stay in the tunnel and keep moving,” Adriane ordered.

Eventually the party reaches the crystal chamber. They don’t see Stormbringer, but there’s a bunch of imps guarding the place now. The crystals have changed, too: they’re pulsating and generating energy! Adriane fights off some imps so that the rest of the party can enter the chamber. However, Emily starts Detecting Magic and realizes that barrage of magical energy is headed straight for the crystals. Adriane decides to distract the Sorceress along with Lyra, while Zach covers Emily and Ozzie as they cast Heal on the mistwolves.

As Adriane leaves, she hears Stormbringer again, and knows deep down that this is the last time she’ll ever hear her wolf. Aww.

Status Update!
Dreamer rejoins the party!
Adriane and Lyra leave the party!
Zach learned: Detect Magic and Detect Evil!

Next time: Kara finds the Very Definitely Final Dungeon again, and Adriane fights a boss.