The mountain was topped by a large, flat mesa covered with what had once been a beautiful forest. However, to Seles’ great sorrow, the trees were ablaze with fiercely burning flames. Pyre balked at entering the burning wood, pointing out rather logically that it was far too dangerous, but when Clara held up the Garnet Wreath, she could feel it was connected somehow to something in the middle of the flames. With a stab of intuition, she declared that the
had to be in the
center of the wood, and they’d never reach it without taking the risk. Crimson
And what a risk it was. The moment they set cautious foot into the wood, the flames turned on them as though they were alive, forming great beasts and serpents of fire. To get too close to these Burning Beasts and Flame Dragons was suicide; the heat thrown off by their colossal bodies injured Pyre when she tried to attack with her sword. Only the long-range capabilities of the Bow, the Rod, and the Whip could damage these foes without suffering burns.
Faience’s magic was their salvation more than once. Niay’s Gift of Life not only restored their fighting spirit but could also soothe the burns left by the attacks of the flaming monsters, curing them as though they had never been. Clara stayed well back, attacking from afar with her Spitting Earth and Avalanche spells so that Pyre could borrow her Magical Rod to attack. And Pyre, when she found she couldn’t fight at melee range as she was comfortable with, learned instead how to focus her chi through her chakra, transforming it into a bullet she could fire from afar while she flung magic from Clara’s wand.
Tinderflies identical to the one Seles had fought to save Clara zoomed overhead, adding to their troubles as they worked their way into the burning wood. A few times Clara tried using her Earthquake magic to knock some of trees down and clear them a path. This didn’t always work—the trees had to be quite large and positioned in just the right way so that they would fall away from them without blocking the way—but Clara was surprisingly precise with it, and on the occasions where she wasn’t sure, Niay used Faience’s powers of Augury to predict the outcome of the tree’s fall. Without these spells, they might never have found their way to the
. Crimson Palace
But find it they did; an enormous scarlet building like a giant cathedral, the walls shimmering with golden flickers from the surrounding flames. They pulled open the heavy doors and dashed for safety inside.