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Title: The Shadow Witch
Author: Crownfield, Gertrude, 1867-1945
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Shadow Witch" ***

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                                  THE
                                SHADOW
                                 WITCH

                                  BY

                               GERTRUDE
                              CROWNFIELD

                           ILLUSTRATIONS BY
                          ANNE MERRIMAN PECK

                        E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
                               NEW YORK



                          COPYRIGHT 1922, BY
                        E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY

                         _All rights reserved_

               _Printed in the United States of America_

                            [Illustration]



                 TO THE FRIEND WHOM I HAVE NEVER SEEN

                            [Illustration]



                            [Illustration]

                               CONTENTS

                                           PAGE
                       PROLOGUE               1
                       CHAPTER
                          I.                  5
                         II.                 23
                        III.                 37
                         IV.                 52
                          V.                 68
                         VI.                 79
                        VII.                101
                       VIII.                113
                         IX.                122
                          X.                148
                         XI.                166
                        XII.                181
                       XIII.                201
                        XIV.                213
                         XV.                224
                        XVI.                243



                            [Illustration]

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


      Prince Ember stretched eager hands to receive it        107

      She saw before her a glorious figure, Prince Ember      145

      The Prince led his bride home to his Palace of
        Good Cheer                                            249



                           THE SHADOW WITCH

                            [Illustration]



                            [Illustration]

                               PROLOGUE


Come, sit with me beside the broad hearthstone and gaze into the depths
of the fire when it burns low, for not among the leaping flames alone
are there to be seen marvelous things.

Deep hidden from your eyes at first, but plainly visible as you look
closer, are countless forms of brightness and of beauty. You will find
them among the shining coals that glimmer in scarlet and gold before you
when the embers lie clear and warm upon the hearth. You will behold
them among the shadows that flit across the embers with delicate grace
and changeful hues.

Here, spread wide open, is a part of the magical Land of Fire, the
wonderland of the good and peaceful Ember Fairies. A golden gate gives
entrance to it. Shining pathways lead through its bright gardens. Its
skies are warm and glowing. Here, decked with flaming banners, stands
the home of the good Prince Ember—his fairy Palace of Good Cheer. Here
moves the beautiful Shadow Princess, in trailing garments of rose and
amethyst. Here she may be seen in her dance of joy and ecstasy followed
by her faithful band of Shadows.

Long ago, in the Land of Shadows, lived the Shadow Witch, the one
beautiful and loving creature in all that dim and darksome land that
lies away from the Land of Fire, and between it and the Chimney Back.
Close to her domain is the great Plain of Ash, where the giant, Curling
Smoke, rises, where the crafty Ash Goblin lurks, where the boisterous
Wind in the Chimney swoops down from out the Chimney Mouth. Near by,
also, in his Cave of Darkness, her brother the Wizard works his
enchantments.

If you will but hearken, I will tell you how the Shadow Witch came to
leave that grim land with its evil fairies, and why it is that she now
dances with happiness amid the good fairies of the Fire, in the Land of
Glowing Embers. You shall hear, also, of the noble Prince Ember, and of
the quest upon which he once set out. What speed he had in his high
adventure, and whether or no he brought it to a happy and fortunate
close, this tale will make known to you.



                            [Illustration]

                               CHAPTER I


One morning at early dawn, the Shadow Witch stole down her palace steps
and out into her Garden of Shadows, to walk there alone.

Not many days before, a stranger prince, seeking to deliver a beautiful
flame princess whom he loved, had passed through the Land of the Evil
Fairies that lies far away from the heart of the Fire. The Shadow Witch
had seen him, and at first, half in mischief, and half because she was
lonely, had tried, by her magic, to lure him away from his quest into
her own land. But soon, moved by his courage and goodness, yet most of
all by his faithful love to his princess, she had given him aid in his
undertaking, and had saved him from destruction by her brother, the
Wizard of the Cave of Darkness.

No such bright visitant had ever before come into the strange country
where she dwelt, and when he departed, her dim palace, her misty woods
and gardens, even her own magic, no longer gave her pleasure as they
once had done.

Far from her dominions lay that lovely land from whence the prince had
come, the land of the good and happy Fire Fairies. Of the bright spells,
the noble magic, the joyous life of these fairies she knew nothing.

Through her dusky land she moved, attended by her servants, the
Shadows, working with them her curious, and sometimes mischievous,
spells. Her brother, the Wizard, gave her no cheer, spent no love upon
her, taught her nothing good, and she, for her own part, seldom sought
his presence.

As she walked this morning in her garden, her dark eyes were troubled,
and she let her grey garments sweep the ground unheeded, while in fancy
she followed Prince Radiance, who had come for one brief hour into her
dull life. She could not but wonder whether she must be always lonely as
she now was, whether she must always wish in vain for such happiness as
his land could give. Up and down the alleys of the garden she went, and
for a long time no one came to disturb her, but at length a voice broke
in upon her musings.

“Mistress of the Shadows,” it said, “a messenger from your brother, the
Wizard, desires to speak to you.”

The Shadow Witch lifted her eyes. Before her stood her most faithful
servant, Creeping Shadow.

“What is his message?” the Shadow Witch demanded.

“He declares that it is for your ear alone,” the Shadow answered.

Her mistress frowned impatiently. She was in no mood to talk with him.

“He waits at the palace door,” continued Creeping Shadow, “and says that
he will remain there until you are pleased to receive him.”

“Go, then, and bring him hither,” was the reluctant answer. “I will hear
what he has to say.”

Creeping Shadow hastened to obey, and presently returned accompanied by
a dwarfed creature, black as the blackest soot and clad in raiment as
dusky as himself. It was the Chief Imp, a trusted messenger of the
Wizard.

The Shadow Witch especially disliked him. He was at times impertinent
when he came on her brother’s errands, therefore she held herself
haughtily and folded her robes closer about her when he drew near.

But the Chief Imp bore himself humbly today and his disagreeable face
wore an air of deep distress. He bowed himself to the earth, and waited
permission to speak.

“What says your master?” demanded the Shadow Witch imperiously. “Speak.”

“Alas!” groaned the Imp, as if in profound grief, “My master lies in his
cavern sick unto death. He begs that you will come to him, and, by your
magic, restore him to himself.”

The Shadow Witch regarded him unmoved. “Has so great a magician as my
brother no magic of his own that will be potent to restore him, that he
must ask aid of mine?” she inquired.

“Nay, madam,” replied the Chief Imp, rolling up his eyes, “He has tried
every means within his power and grows no better. He turns to you,
therefore, in his extremity and beseeches you not to refuse him.”

Knowing, as she did, the craftiness of her brother, the Shadow Witch
heard his message with distrust. She knew that if he had discovered that
it was by her help that the prince had escaped him and that evil had
been brought upon himself, it would go hard with her once she was in his
power. Therefore, she determined, before she yielded to his request, to
learn from his servant whether or not he suspected her of what she had
done. So she bent a searching gaze upon the Chief Imp and began to
question him.

“Tell me,” she commanded, “what is this sickness from which your master
suffers, and what is its cause?”

The Imp hastened to inform her. “A strange prince penetrated the Cave of
Darkness, a short time since. For reasons of his own, the Wizard sought
to overpower him with the spell of his Urn of Vapors, but the prince,
who had come upon him without warning, suddenly flashed about him a
magic weapon, the Sword of Flames, that instantly took from my master
all power to protect himself. He cried aloud to us, and at once we
hurried him away to an inner chamber, far from its dreadful sway. There
he lay for a time insensible, and we feared for his life, but at length,
tended by his servants, he became able to move a little, and, at last,
even to speak. But that is all.”

“What has become of this prince and his magic sword?” demanded the
Shadow Witch, watching him yet more closely. “Have you permitted him to
escape with it unharmed?”

“Ah, madam,” the Chief Imp replied, “When we came to seek him, to wreak
vengeance upon him, he had vanished and had left no trace.”

“Had this prince no servants, no companions?” insisted she. “None who
guided him to my brother’s cavern?”

“Nay,” he assured her, “the prince was quite alone.”

The Shadow Witch asked him no further questions, but stood silent,
pondering deeply whether or no she should grant the Wizard’s request.
She herself had seen him overcome by the fairy sword, had seen the
prince depart in safety, but that her brother trusted to any magic of
her own to restore him, she greatly doubted. Still, she believed that
there could be no grave danger to herself in going to him. Never, even
in the fulness of his power, had he been able to really injure her. Why
should she fear him now, when he was helpless. Besides, from what the
Imp had said, it was not known that she had guided and protected the
prince. Therefore she had no cause for uneasiness.

She turned to where the Chief Imp waited, regarding her with his crafty
eyes. “Go back to your master,” she bade him. “Say to him that I will
come shortly to render him what aid I can.”

Well pleased at the result of his errand, the Chief Imp departed.

As soon as he was out of sight the Shadow Witch beckoned Creeping Shadow
to her side and instructed her with lifted finger. “I go alone to visit
my brother, the Wizard, who lies ill, and has sent for me. If, however,
much time passes, and I have not returned, you may be sure that some
evil has befallen me. Seek me then, instantly, in the Cave of Darkness,
for I shall have need of you.”

Creeping Shadow swore to obey what she had been told, and her mistress,
gathering her trailing robes over her arm, took her way to the Wizard’s
Cave.

Gloomy and forbidding was the Cave of Darkness. Its outer walls rose
high and cliff-like from the great Plain of Ash, and a yawning opening
led off to its dark corridors and many dusky chambers.

The Shadow Witch had no sooner reached the Cave mouth and entered it
than the Chief Imp, with a spark lantern in his hand, met her to conduct
her to his master. They passed swiftly down the narrow passage and came
presently to that vast black chamber called the Cave Hall, where the
Wizard was wont to sit.

The Cave Hall was filled with Imps, some clustered in groups, whispering
together; some lolling idly upon the soot cushions that lay about the
floor; some peeping stealthily from behind the heavy curtains of soot
with which the walls were hung. But their master was nowhere to be seen.

The Chief Imp went directly to the farther wall and struck upon it with
his wand. Instantly it yawned apart, and an inner corridor was revealed.

This part of the cave was strange to the Shadow Witch, but she entered
boldly and followed her guide without fear through many winding ways and
secret chambers, until at last he paused before a second wall. He struck
upon it, as he had upon the other. It opened, in its turn, and she saw
before her a room more profoundly dark than any that they had yet passed
through. Its charcoal walls were set about with faintly glowing
lanterns, but so heavy were the soot curtains that surrounded them that
their light was almost quenched.

Here, too, were Imps, one beside each spark lantern, but in the centre
of the room the Shadow Witch saw that which caused her to turn pale with
misgiving, for the Wizard of the Cave was there—not weak or ill, as she
had been led to believe, but recovered and standing in the fulness of
his strength.

Beholding him thus, she knew that he intended mischief against her;
knew, also, that for her safety she must show no sign of fear. “After
all,” she thought, “my own magic will protect me. Never has it been less
potent than his. It will not fail me now.”

She lifted herself to her full height and stood tall and beautiful
before him, her rich black hair falling like a mantle over her
shoulders, her eyes gleaming like stars through the dusk. “So, you have
deceived me, brother,” she said coldly. “I might have known that it
would be so.”

“Even as you have deceived me,” retorted the Wizard, bending a look of
malice upon her. “But you have been clever once too often, my sister.
Did you think that I could not guess that it was you who made it
possible for the stranger prince to steal upon me unawares with his
Sword of Flames? Do I not know your trick of the moving curtain of
shadow? It was that which screened him from my eyes until it was too
late for me to destroy him. It was yourself who told him when to
unsheath his sword. It was you, then, who made me suffer. But now my
time has come to repay you—to make you feel the wrath of the Wizard of
the Cave.”

The Shadow Witch laughed scornfully. “I fear you not,” she cried. “Have
I not magic of my own, ay, as great even as yours, that will serve to
protect me against your enchantments. I defy you, then, magician though
you are. You cannot harm me.”

Her words were bold, but fear clutched at her heart in spite of them.
Here in this deepest part of the Wizard’s Cave, surrounded by his
servants, and distant from her own, what would become of her if her
magic failed before his? She knew that it would be folly to stay and
test it. She determined to escape while there was yet time.

With a rush she attempted to dart past him, but in vain. He stretched
his long arms and caught her to him, and though she struggled
desperately against him, he held her fast.

“Away with the lights,” shouted the Wizard hoarsely.

Obediently the Imps snatched the lanterns from the walls and vanished
with them in haste, leaving the Shadow Witch alone with her brother,
wrapped in deepest darkness. By what means he wrought upon her there she
could not tell, for she could neither see his face, nor hear his words.
She only knew that suddenly all her magic powers departed from her,
leaving her completely helpless.

In her ears the harsh voice of the Wizard sounded triumphing over her.
“Thus you are repaid in part, my sister, for giving aid to my enemies.
It will be long before you trick me again, for, lest you should try to
give me some fresh proof of your cleverness, I have prepared for you the
darkness of this prison chamber. In it no Shadow can have power, can
work magic. Here you shall remain, until I choose to set you free.”

He released her hands, and she sank weakly down to the floor of the
cavern. She heard his footsteps departing through the darkness and
presently she knew that she was quite alone.

Lying where she had fallen, she waited until a little strength came back
to her. Then she crept from side to side of her prison, groping her way
with her hands, for she could see nothing. She felt the heavy soot
curtains sway beneath her fingers; she felt the walls of charcoal, hard
and unyielding, behind them. It was as if the room were sealed. Thus she
learned that there was no faintest hope for her of escape—that she was,
as the Wizard had said, completely in his power.

Yet she did not give way to despair, for she knew that her servants were
many and faithful. “I will wait patiently,” she whispered to herself.
“It cannot be long, for Creeping Shadow will not forget what I told
her—will not fail to come to my help.”



                            [Illustration]

                              CHAPTER II


Creeping Shadow bore constantly in mind the parting words of her
mistress, and when she had waited patiently until many hours had passed
and still the Shadow Witch did not return, she knew the time had come to
go in search of her. Saying nothing to her fellow-servants of her
errand, she set out without further delay.

As she went through the garden and out into the dim stretches of the
Land of Shadows, she kept careful watch, that she might not overlook
her dear mistress, in case she should be approaching on her homeward
way.

She reached the Plain of Ash and stood for a moment to scan it far and
wide. Only the grey expanse, dotted with low hills and mounds of ash lay
before her. Not a living creature moved upon its surface.

Sure then that mischief had indeed befallen the Shadow Witch, she sped
away across the Plain, and with an anxiously beating heart arrived at
the entrance to the Cave of Darkness. She plunged into it. In the long
corridor that led to the Cave Hall, she met, from time to time, Imps
coming and going upon their master’s business, and she hoped that they
might give her some news of her mistress.

“Tell me,” she cried to one, “Is my mistress, the Shadow Witch still in
the Cave?” But the Imp laughed jeeringly in her face and disappeared,
making no answer.

A second servant of the Wizard passed her, and when she asked him the
same question, he gave her an impertinent reply and vanished also.

More uneasy, then, than ever, because of their behavior, she went on her
way in silence and came to the great Cave Hall. Never before had she
entered it alone. In a huge chair, near to the farther wall, she saw the
Wizard sitting. His shaggy brows were bent over a Book of Craft, wherein
were written all those ancient and cruel spells in which he most
delighted. An evil vapor floated from the pages of the book and,
circling round his head, half hid his grim face and dingy beard. It
crept along the folds of his black garments and settled slowly about
his feet, veiling them in a yellow mist.

The Shadow beheld him with dread. She feared to speak with him. But one
whom she loved was in danger. Without making a sound, she drew nearer
until she stood directly before him.

“Sir Wizard,” she cried, “I come to seek my mistress.”

Her voice, echoing through the silent Cave Hall, roused the Wizard from
his evil studies. He threw back his head in angry astonishment. “You
Shadows grow impudent,” he exclaimed frowning. “Who has given you leave
to intrude upon me in my Cave?”

In spite of the indignant glance he cast upon her, Creeping Shadow was
not daunted. “I came to seek my mistress,” she repeated. “She herself
has bade me do so. Tell me, then, where I shall find her?”

“You seek her here in vain,” declared the Wizard. “I will give you no
news of her, neither will I be disturbed. Begone at once or it will be
the worse for you.”

“Nay, but I must know what you have done to her,” persisted Creeping
Shadow. “It was to follow the Chief Imp, whom you sent, that she left
her Garden of Shadows. It was here that she bade me seek her if she did
not return. The time has been long, and I have come to obey her
commands.”

The sharp eyes of the Wizard flashed with wrath. “What if she be here?”
he thundered, smiting shut his Book of Craft. “She is my sister, and
when she offends me I shall punish her as I choose. Learn the truth
then. She lies hidden in the deepest part of my cavern, in a dungeon so
dark that she can work none of her grey magic therein; in a dungeon so
remote that none of her servants can ever penetrate to it; a dungeon
whose walls are so tightly sealed, so cleverly enchanted, that she will
try in vain to make her escape. There she shall remain until I choose to
set her free. I have told you. Go now, and let me see your face no
more.”

At these words, so remorseless and cruel, a wailing cry broke from the
lips of Creeping Shadow. Even a worse fate than she had feared had
overtaken the beautiful Shadow Witch. She threw herself in anguish at
the Wizard’s feet to plead with him for the release of her mistress, but
he would not hear her.

“Go, as I bade you,” he commanded, spurning her from him with force.
“Go, lest I summon my servants to bind you fast, and place you in a
prison as drear and lonely as hers.”

Creeping Shadow saw that there was no hope, that nothing would move his
hard heart to mercy. Moreover, his threat overwhelmed her with terror,
for if she herself were imprisoned, there would be none to bring help to
her mistress, since none but herself knew that she was in the Cave of
Darkness.

She rose to her feet, and with bowed head passed from the Cave Hall
without another word. Her heart was very heavy, for at first she could
think of no one to whom she could turn for assistance. The Shadows,
without their mistress, were powerless against the Wizard. All others in
the land were not only as wicked as he, as she well knew, but every one
of them, Curling Smoke, the Giant of the Seven Hills of Ash, the Dragon
of the Gloomy Vale, and the Ash Goblin, would be instantly ready to join
with him against his sister. From the Wind in the Chimney, also, nothing
but ill usage could be expected.

The more she pondered, the deeper grew her despair, and every moment
lost was precious. She wrung her hands in her distress.

Then, suddenly she remembered one who was not evil—one who would surely
befriend the Shadow Witch. It was the Elf—the good Elf, who dwells in
the Borderland that stretches beyond the Plain of Ash and away toward
the Kingdom of Earth. Very old and wise is the Elf. He knows the ways of
the Evil Fairies who dwell in the countries that lie away from the heart
of the Fire; knows much of their dark magic and mischievous
enchantments. He knows something, also, of the good Fire Fairies and
their bright spells. Safe in his home amid the ash of the Borderland, he
sees the Wind in the Chimney swoop down upon the Borderland and even out
across the broad Hearthstone in his boldness, but he knows no fear of
him. He sees the giant, Curling Smoke, rise stealthily from his lurking
places, sees him grow vaster, and vaster, until, when he chooses he
darkens all the sky, but of him, also, he is unafraid. The Ash Goblin
creeps forth from his low dwelling, prying into the affairs of others
and seeking what mischief he may do, but the Elf goes his way
undisturbed, knowing himself secure against him.

No one who comes to the Elf of the Borderland for help in any good deed
comes in vain. Thinking of this, hope rose in the breast of Creeping
Shadow. Sure that he would not fail her, she determined to appeal to him
at once.

Like an arrow she sped out of the Cave and swept down the cliff-side and
across the Plain in noiseless haste. The Ash Goblin met her, and would
have detained her to ask her business, but she escaped him without
reply. In trembling fear of the Wind, who might swoop down upon her, she
approached the Chimney Mouth, but she had the good fortune to pass by it
in safety.

She had entered the Borderland and was not far from the Elf’s door, when
suddenly she encountered him. He was sitting quietly upon a mound of
ash, a curious little figure, with eyes that twinkled with a kindly
light under thick fuzzy brows. His fuzzy ears stood out from beneath a
peaked cap; his pudgy hands were almost hidden by the sleeves of the
soft ashen garment that clothed him from head to foot.

He saw Creeping Shadow approaching and knowing at once from her face
that she was in trouble, he guessed that she had come to ask his help.
So he beckoned her to a seat beside him and listened to her story with
the keenest attention, hearing her through to the last word without
interrupting her.

“And now,” Creeping Shadow besought him, when she had told him all,
“What can be done to deliver my dear mistress? There is none so wise and
kind as yourself. Advise me, I beg of you.” With eyes fastened eagerly
upon his face she awaited his answer.

“There is but one thing to do,” returned the Elf instantly. “You must
obtain the assistance of some noble Prince—one who, by the power of his
good magic, can overcome the Wizard, and set her free.”

“Alas!” sighed Creeping Shadow, “Where might such a prince be found? You
know as well as I that all in this land are evil and use evil
enchantments.”

“True,” he answered. “From this land no help can come for the Shadow
Witch. But you must not forget the Land of Fire. In it there are many
good and powerful fairies, and among them is Prince Radiance. You must
go to him and tell him of this desperate plight of your mistress. He
will not refuse to come to her relief.”

Creeping Shadow shook her head slowly. “I cannot believe that he will do
so,” she asserted, “for not long since my mistress caused him great
distress and disappointment by leading him astray.”

“Ay, that she did,” agreed her companion. “But she made amends for it
immediately afterward by rendering him a noble service. He himself told
me of it with gratitude. I am certain that he has not forgotten it and
will be glad to repay his great debt.”

So confidently did the Elf speak that Creeping Shadow took heart once
more. She rose quickly from her seat. “If you will but tell me where to
find him, I will go and appeal to him at once,” she declared.

“You must seek him in King Red Flame’s dominions, in the Palace of
Burning Coals,” the Elf instructed her. “There he dwells with his bride,
the lovely Princess White Flame, whom he delivered from the enchantment
of the wicked Earth Fairy. Whether or no he is able to come himself to
the rescue of your mistress, remains to be discovered, but this much is
certain: he will see to it that she is not left a prisoner in the hands
of her brother the Wizard. And now, come. I will conduct you to the
boundaries of the Land of Fire. Once you enter its dominions you will
find many friends, for its fairies are kind and gentle and will do
everything in their power to guide you in safety to your journey’s end.”

Cheered and consoled by his words, Creeping Shadow set out in his
company, and when at length she thanked the good Elf and bade him
farewell on the borders of the Land of Fire, she was able to go forward
alone with hope and confidence.



                            [Illustration]

                              CHAPTER III


In the Land of the Fire Fairies great happiness reigned. Only a little
while before Prince Radiance had brought the lovely Princess White Flame
safely home to her father, after many perilous and strange adventures,
and King Red Flame had rewarded the noble Prince with his daughter’s
hand. In the King’s marvelous palace, the Palace of Burning Coals, their
fairy wedding had been celebrated with outbursts of joy and exultation.

In the very heart of the King’s dominions stood the palace, perfect in
beauty, from its dazzling foundations to its topmost flaming turret.
Brightness unquenchable shone from its walls, warmth and the spirit of
friendliness streamed from its windows and wide-flung golden doors.
Beyond it, in the garden of the Princess, the exquisite flame-roses and
stately fire-lilies unfolded to a richer, fuller beauty. The huge
fire-oak, under which Prince Radiance had first beheld the enchanted
Princess as a fine white flame, rustled its ruddy leaves and glowed more
intensely from root to crown, almost as though it knew and rejoiced in
the part which it had played in the fortunes of this happy wedded pair.

Throughout the whole kingdom a gentle music filled the warm air and
charmed the ear—the music of fairy voices, the music of whispering
flames, the music of tripping feet—all the sweet sounds of the fire
gathered into one continuous strain of gladness, now high and clear, as
if it could not be restrained, now low and soft, as if even in quietness
all must still murmur the praise of the King and his beloved children.

Into this land of wondrous light and beauty came Creeping Shadow,
marveling at what she saw, awed by it, stirred by it, sure in her heart
that from a place so bright, so pure, so lovely, help must come for her
imprisoned mistress. The Elf of the Borderland had spoken truly: from
the moment she had entered the Land of the Fire Fairies, she had met
with nothing but kindness. The fairies had looked with wonder upon this
stranger with the sorrowful face and trailing robes of grey, but all had
helped her on her journey, and none had asked her more than she had
cared to tell.

Twilight had come when, foot-sore and weary, she reached the Palace of
Burning Coals. The palace gardens, lovely in the softened glow of
evening, were deserted; the fire-lilies stood tall and lonely by the
garden paths; but from every window of the palace streamed brilliant
lights, and from its doorway floated sounds of joy and laughter. It was
that pleasant hour of evening in which the fairies, their tasks in
fields and house and garden completed, came freely to the palace hall to
dance and sing and tell, in the King’s presence, tales of past adventure
and noble deeds.

Creeping Shadow stood timidly at the gate for a moment, longing yet
fearing to enter. How could she dare to hope that the Prince would turn
from a place so bright and joyous to come to the aid of her mistress in
a drear and dangerous land?

But the need of the Shadow Witch was too great to be set aside. Her
servant cast off her fears and stole silently through the garden and up
to the radiant door. Pausing on its threshold, her dark eyes traveled
straight down the palace hall to the vast room that opened beyond, and
there, upon a tall golden throne, King Red Flame sat. At his right hand
stood he whom she had come to seek. She remembered him well, that brave
and handsome Prince, whom her mistress had for a time deluded by her
magic in the Land of Shadows. His yellow locks fell as softly over his
shoulders, his noble countenance wore the same high look of courage and
good cheer as on that day. His scarlet velvet cloak and cap, his waving
feather, were the very same. Close beside him was the Princess, in
shining robes, with floating hair of the palest gold. Never before had
the Shadow seen her, but from her charming face, so tender and
beautiful, she knew that it could be none else, knew, also, that no cry
for help and pity could come to her in vain.

Gathering her grey robes closer about her, Creeping Shadow entered
boldly, and sped through the hall. Groups of gaily chattering
fire-fairies saw this strange visitant flit by them, but were too
startled and amazed to check her as she passed. So she came unhindered
into the presence of the royal company.

But before she had reached them, the Princess saw her. With a low cry of
terror, she caught the Prince’s hand. “See Radiance! See who comes!” she
whispered tremulously. “Is not this one from that grim land where we
once wandered so long?”

Then the Prince saw her also and knew her to be a servant of the Shadow
Witch, yet before he could answer, Creeping Shadow had reached them and
had thrown herself at King Red Flame’s feet.

“Hear me, oh, King,” she implored, “I am Creeping Shadow. I come not to
bring evil, but to beseech aid from Prince Radiance for my mistress, the
Shadow Witch, who is now in bitter trouble, and who not long since was a
true friend to him.”

Touched by the sorrow in her voice, King Red Flame gave gracious answer.
“Arise, Creeping Shadow, and speak without fear. I give my royal word
that whatever we can do to succor your mistress shall surely be done.”

Prince Radiance stooped down and himself raised the Shadow to her feet.
“Your mistress was indeed my friend,” he declared. “I can never forget
my debt to her. Tell us quickly, what is this trouble that has befallen
her?”

To their words the Princess White Flame added gently, “Yes, tell us, for
not my Prince alone, but my father and myself, also, are debtors to the
Shadow Witch.”

Thus cheered and encouraged, Creeping Shadow began her tale, surrounded
by the pitying fairies, all eager to show their sympathy for her and
their desire to befriend her.

When all was told, Prince Radiance, without waiting for the King to
speak, cried at once, “Your Majesty, my duty is plain. The Shadow Witch
must not be left to suffer punishment because of me. Let me go at once
to her rescue. With my Sword of Flames, by which I so lately conquered
the Wizard, I can again put him to naught.”

For a moment the King made no answer. At the generous words of the
Prince, a sob of joy broke from Creeping Shadow, but Princess White
Flame shuddered. In memory she saw again the dark cavern of the Wizard,
remembered its cruel master, and the evil spell by which he had
endeavored to destroy her Prince; and for a brief space she forgot the
sore trouble of the Shadow Witch, helpless and in that Wizard’s power.
It was but for an instant, however; then her voice, tender and full of
sympathy arose, quivering though it was with her fears for the safety of
her Prince. “Ah, no! We cannot let her suffer! You must go.”

“Come, come quickly then,” breathed Creeping Shadow. “Come, while there
is yet time.”

Before the Prince could make further answer to her plea, King Red Flame
interposed with firm, yet gentle, authority. “Stay, my son. In so grave
a matter we must take no step amiss. We must seek the best counsel that
our kingdom affords. The Wise One alone, out of his great store of
wisdom, will know how to give it.”

With lifted hand he summoned his swiftest messenger. “Go, Rushing
Flame,” he commanded. “Say to the Wise One that the King has need of
him.”

In haste Rushing Flame departed, and in a deep silence, broken only now
and then by the low whispering of the fire fairies, all awaited the
coming of the Wise One.

So ready was the Wise One to give counsel wherever it was required, that
much sooner than could have been expected from one of his age, he stood
before the King. Creeping Shadow, lifting her eyes eagerly, beheld a
very ancient fairy, clad in deep scarlet. His beard was white as snow.
His eyes were piercingly keen. Never had she seen anyone who looked at
once so ancient and so wise.

“Your Majesty,” said the Wise One gravely, making him a low obeisance,
“How can I serve you?”

“Give me of your good counsel,” King Red Flame besought him. “Far away
in the cave of her brother, the Wizard, the Shadow Witch lies
imprisoned, not for any fault of hers, but for her kindness to Prince
Radiance and my beloved daughter. Her servant Creeping Shadow, whom you
see yonder, has come to beg the Prince to haste to her deliverance. What
say you? If he goes, will he have power to deliver her? If he goes, will
he return in safety?”

Anxiously Princess White Flame fixed her eyes upon the Wise One’s face,
and awaited his answer to her father’s question. No less anxiously did
Creeping Shadow listen to hear the fate of her dear mistress.

“Nay, Your Majesty,” replied the Wise One, with great earnestness,
“deeply as the Prince is indebted to the Shadow Witch, brave though he
is and potent as is his Sword of Flames against the Wizard, it is not
given to him to deliver her.”

Hearing his words, tears rushed to the eyes of Creeping Shadow. “Alas!
alas! My poor mistress!” she sobbed. “If this be true, what is to become
of her in the dense darkness where she lies captive with all her magic
power gone?”

A low murmur of pity ran from one to the other of the kind-hearted fire
fairies, from the King himself, to the humblest fairy gathered there.

Princess White Flame laid a consoling hand upon Creeping Shadow’s
shoulder. “Wait but a moment,” she told her. “The Wise One has great
knowledge, great wisdom. No magic is hid from him. Somewhere there must
be one who can bring succor to your mistress. The Wise One will know of
him, and can tell us where he may be found.”

“You speak truly, my Princess,” the Wise One hastened to inform her. “It
is written in my Book of Wisdom that when this misfortune falls upon the
Shadow Witch, there is but one who can release her from that enchanted
chamber where the Wizard now holds her, but one who can bring her
unharmed through the perils which will afterward beset her.”

“His name?” cried the King, Prince Radiance and the Princess, in one
voice. “His name?” cried Creeping Shadow beseechingly.

“Sire, it is your nephew, Prince Ember,” declared the Wise One. “He it
is who is fated to set her free.”

From all those who had waited in breathless suspense for his answer,
there burst a murmur of intense relief. Creeping Shadow’s heart beat
quick with joy.

“And the perils of which you spoke,—shall my dear nephew, also, escape
them unscathed?” demanded King Red Flame anxiously.

“Ay, truly, Your Majesty,” the ancient one assured him. “All will be
well, if he but follows my advice. Send him to me, and I will instruct
him.”

His counsel given, the Wise One bade farewell to his master and returned
to his hut.

Once more Rushing Flame set out in haste on the King’s business, but
this time it was to summon Prince Ember, that he might learn from the
royal lips the task that was his to perform.



                            [Illustration]

                              CHAPTER IV


Beautiful is the Land of Glowing Embers, near to the Palace of King Red
Flame. When morning dawns, a light soft and rosy bathes its castles and
its gardens. At noonday, its pale sweet glow burns to a richer glory,
and a flush of deepest rose ascends over turrets and blossoming trees.
With nightfall, a purple splendor settles over all things while its
peaceful fairies sleep. Set in the midst of it is the home of Prince
Ember, the fairy palace of Good Cheer.

In his favorite room in the palace Prince Ember sat alone, in deep
thought. Spread open upon the table before him was a thick volume,
written in the ancient fairy language, filled with tales of fairy
adventure of a far off time. As he read and pondered them, his heart was
filled with longing that he, too, might go upon some dangerous quest,
might win some noble victory. His domain was quiet. His servants were
happy and at peace. He knew of nothing that could call him forth.

Tall and straight of limb and very handsome was this prince of the Land
of Glowing Embers. Ruddy gold was his hair, like the fire when it glows
most richly. His eyes were bright and kind. The cloak that hung from his
shoulders was deep red and fell over red garments of yet deeper hue.
From his round red cap a black feather drooped to mingle with the glory
of his hair.

As yet he had no princess, for as yet he had seen none who stirred his
heart, though for want of her he was sometimes lonely, even in his
Palace of Good Cheer.

The fairies of his dominions loved him well and served him with zeal,
for none was kinder, none more nobly just, than their own Prince Ember.

Sitting in his palace on this summer evening, he remembered the brave
deeds which Prince Radiance had lately done,—deeds not less splendid
than these which were written in this ancient book.

And while he sighed, because he felt that for him there could be no such
high adventures, Rushing Flame was speeding toward his palace, on the
errand of the King. The messenger gave no heed, in his swift passing,
to the loveliness of the land, but turning neither to right nor left,
came straight to the arched and golden gate that gave entrance to the
gardens of the Prince.

Like an arrow he sped through it and on to the palace door. An Ember
Fairy opened to his knock and, when he told his business, led him
quickly to the Prince.

“Your Highness,” he announced, “Rushing Flame is here, with a message
from the King.”

“Speak, Rushing Flame,” commanded the Prince. “What word do you bring me
from His Majesty?”

“That you will come to him at once,” the messenger replied. “There are
important matters that require your presence.”

“Know you aught of what these matters may be?” demanded Prince Ember.

“This much only I may tell you, Your Highness. They concern a dangerous
and difficult adventure. More than this you must learn from the King
himself,” answered Rushing Flame.

Prince Ember sprang to his feet, his eyes kindling with eagerness. “See
that my horse is brought quickly to the palace door,” he cried to the
Ember Fairy, who still lingered near, “for I go in haste to my uncle,
the King.”

The fairy obeyed, and presently the hoof-beats of the ruddy charger that
bore the Prince resounded on the road that led to the Palace of Burning
Coals.

A good steed and a swift, was he. Before Rushing Flame, with all his
speed, had gone half the distance homeward, the Prince alighted at the
door of his uncle’s palace and a moment later presented himself before
the King.

“Ah, my dear Ember,” exclaimed King Red Flame, grasping his hand, “your
presence is most earnestly desired, for there has come to us a servant
of the Shadow Witch, beseeching help for her mistress, who now lies
captive to her brother, the Wizard of the Cave of Darkness. This
punishment he inflicts upon her, because of her kindness to Prince
Radiance and my daughter. Gladly would Prince Radiance prove his
gratitude by hasting to her deliverance, but the Wise One has declared
that it would be in vain—has declared that it is yourself, and none
other, who is fated to set her free. Since this is so, is it your desire
to go upon this adventure?”

“Ah, Your Majesty!” cried Prince Ember, his countenance glowing with
ardor, “no task could be more welcome. I am ready to set forth
immediately.”

The King was greatly pleased, and Creeping Shadow, her anxious fears at
rest, bowed herself at Prince Ember’s feet in gratitude too deep for
speech. The hearts of Prince Radiance and Princess White Flame
overflowed with joy since the deliverance of the Shadow Witch seemed now
assured, and their happiness was reflected in the faces of all the
fairies gathered there.

King Red Flame spoke again. “That your success in this adventure may be
made certain, you must first go to the Wise One and receive his
instructions. If you obey them, he assures me that you cannot fail.”

“I will give good heed to them,” Prince Ember promised him.

So saying he took his leave and followed by Creeping Shadow, set out on
foot for the home of the Wise One.

The queer little hut where the Wise One lived was not far off, and soon
they stood before its door. Creeping Shadow looked with astonishment at
its bright red walls, covered with magic inscriptions, whose meaning was
hidden from all but the Wise One. She beheld with amazement the
chimneys, like lighted torches, that topped its roof and the blazing
flame-bushes that surrounded it. When the Prince knocked on the quaintly
carved door and entered at the Wise One’s word, she drew back quickly
and seated herself under a flame-bush until he should again appear.

Within the hut the Prince found the aged fairy awaiting him. “Hail,
Prince Ember,” said he, rising to greet him. “You go upon a noble
quest.”

“I go gladly,” replied the Prince, and the words came from his heart.

“You must not go unprepared,” returned the Wise One. “Upon those fairy
gifts that you carry with you, upon the use that you make of them, the
success of your adventure depends.”

“And what shall these gifts be?” inquired the Prince.

“First of all, a sword,” was the instant answer. “A fairy sword of
power.”

“Alas!” sighed the Prince. “That I do not possess.”

“It can be provided,” returned the Wise One, smiling. He stepped to an
ancient chest, deeply carved with mystic signs, that stood quite by
itself in a corner of the hut. From out that chest many magic gifts had
come, when need was great. Filled to the brim with treasures as it
always was, none saw aught within but those gifts which were for his
own use.

The Wise One bent down and fitted a key in the lock. After its manner
the key turned of itself in the lock; after its manner the lid rose of
itself upon its huge hinges.

“Come,” said the Wise One, “and behold your sword.”

Prince Ember stepped quickly to his side. Before his eyes, close
sheathed in its shining scabbard, lay the fairy sword of power. A thrill
of awe passed through him at the sight.

“Take it,” commanded the Wise One.

The Prince lifted it out, and as he unsheathed it, at the Wise One’s
word, it filled the hut with a burning glow. Heat, intense and ardent,
streamed from it, making warm the air.

“This is the Sword of Fire,” the ancient fairy told him. “As potent it
will be in your hands and for your use, as was the Sword of Flames in
the hands of Prince Radiance. In every danger that you must meet, over
every obstacle that you must encounter, save one, it will be
victorious.”

Prince Ember’s heart beat fast. “And for that other?” he asked eagerly.

“For that, also, I have a gift,” was the answer. “Look within the chest
once more and you will see.”

Leaning down the Prince peered into the dimness of the chest. “There is
a small round box,” he said.

“Take it, and open it,” commanded the Wise One.

Obediently Prince Ember drew it forth and undid its clasp. He looked
within and saw a bit of charcoal, black and glistening; nothing more. He
regarded it with astonishment. “What power has this to help me?” he
inquired.

“Its power is great,” returned the Wise One, gravely. “Guard it with
care. When escape for yourself and for the Shadow Witch seems
impossible, take it out, and cast it boldly into the midst of the danger
that threatens you, and by its good spell your way to safety will be
made clear.”

The Prince thanked him. He closed the box, and placed it carefully in
his breast.

“In order that you may succeed in this undertaking,” continued his
adviser, “you must be able to reach the prison of the Shadow Witch
unseen. You know, as well as I, that among the good fairies of the Fire,
only the Ember Fairies have power to become entirely invisible. Within
the Wizard’s Cave your own magic will serve to make you so, but in the
Plain outside you must have the Cloak of Ash.”

“This, also, you will give me?” demanded the Prince with quickening
breath.

“Nay, I have it not,” answered the Wise One, shaking his head. “Only the
Elf of the Borderland can bestow this upon you, for he alone, together
with his elves, possesses the secret of its making. Moreover it must be
woven in the presence of him who is to wear it; otherwise it has no
power. Go to him and ask it. He will not refuse you. Creeping Shadow,
who knows where he is to be found, will guide you to him. Do in all
things as I have advised you, and you will not fail.”

So Prince Ember, with grateful words bade the Wise One good-bye and
departed with his gifts, and as he left the hut, Creeping Shadow arose
from her seat beneath the flame-bush and came to walk beside him and
guide him to the Borderland.

Quite alone, in the Borderland, stands the house of the good grey Elf.
Its door was fast shut and its windows closed when Prince Ember and
Creeping Shadow approached it. The thick thatch of ash which covered its
roof and came low down upon its walls so concealed it from view, that
had he been without his companion to guide him, the Prince might have
sought for it long in vain.

When they had reached it, Creeping Shadow stood still. “This is the
house of the Elf,” she said. Then, turning, she pointed to a high black
cliff that rose in the distance. “And yonder is the Cave of Darkness,
where the Wizard dwells, and my poor mistress lies imprisoned. As soon
as you have left the Elf, lose no time in reaching her, I beg of you,
for the Wizard is very cruel, and I know not what he may do to her if
help is long delayed. When you have climbed the steep path which leads
up the cliff-side, you will behold the entrance to the cavern yawning
before you. As for myself, I shall return now to the Land of Shadows, to
await in hope the homecoming of my mistress.”

She turned again and struck upon the Elf’s door thrice. It was the
signal of the servants of the Shadow Witch. In silence the door swung
open, and the Prince set his foot upon the threshold.

“Farewell, noble and generous Prince,” murmured Creeping Shadow. “Good
speed, and a safe return.”

“Farewell,” said Prince Ember. “Rest confident that I shall bring home
the Shadow Witch in triumph.” He passed within, and as silently as it
had opened, the door closed upon him.



                            [Illustration]

                               CHAPTER V


Alone, in the deep darkness of her prison, sat the Shadow Witch growing
paler and sadder every day. She was beginning to fear that after all
Creeping Shadow could do nothing to help her, for how could she ever
penetrate to this dungeon, with its thick walls that hemmed her in. She
doubted not that the Wizard kept the entrance to the Cave closely
guarded; indeed he had told her that it was so.

Daily her food was brought to her by the Chief Imp, who grew more and
more impertinent to her. Daily her brother came to taunt her with her
weakness—with his own power over her. Proudly as she bore herself, she
could not but dread his coming, could not but wonder what he might still
have in store for her of punishment and suffering.

Never before had she so hated the evil magic of the Wizard and his
friends; and even her own magic, which she had always used more in
mischief than with evil in her heart, had grown detestable to her.

The longing to escape became so great that she could hardly endure it,
but with each visit from her brother, her hope of freedom became less
and less, so scornfully did he laugh at her when she demanded to know
when she should be set at liberty.

One day, as she sat thinking bitterly of the hardness of her lot, she
heard once again the sound of approaching footsteps, and, immediately
after, the wall parted, and her brother entered. The lanterns of the
Imps who came with him, cast but a dim light in the thick darkness, yet
faint as it was, the Shadow Witch felt herself revive a little. She
gathered up all her strength and rose to face the Wizard defiantly. In
silence the Imps flocked in and ranged themselves along the soot-hung
walls. The Wizard advanced toward his sister with his cruel smile.

“Well, my clever sister,” he asked her jeeringly, “how fares it with you
now, in this pleasant resting-place?”

The dark eyes of the Shadow Witch rested coldly upon his face, but she
vouchsafed him no reply.

“Here, it is true, you have no special opportunity to do further
mischief,” continued the Wizard, “and that is a hardship for you, to be
sure. But you have plenty of time for repentance, which you need far
more. As for your Land of Shadows, word has come to me that your
servant, Black Shadow, holds sway in your absence. Nay, more, that she
rejoices in her power, and is none too eager for your return.”

Still the Shadow Witch made no reply. She did not doubt what he said,
for she knew well the boldness and insolence of Black Shadow, but she
would not gratify him by showing that she cared in the least.

“And Creeping Shadow,” he went on, “that other servant in whom, above
all the rest, you have had confidence, she, also, has joined herself to
Black Shadow, and obeys her in all things.”

“In that I know you speak falsely,” retorted the Shadow Witch. “There is
none more faithful to me than Creeping Shadow. Nothing could turn her
away from her loyalty to me. I have many other servants, also who love
me, and serve me well.”

“She did not show herself loyal when she sought me in my Cave not long
since,” observed the Wizard, stroking his dingy beard with a slow hand.
“At first she did indeed pretend to desire your freedom; at first she
wept and pleaded with me for your release, as though she were in
earnest, but when she found that I gave no heed to her, she cast off all
disguise, and showed plainly that she rejoiced in your imprisonment. She
even went so far as to try to bargain with me to hold you here. She
needed not to bargain, my good sister, for nothing could change my
purpose toward yourself. I have determined that in this prison you shall
find all of home or kingdom that will be yours for many a day.”

“Naught that you can say would serve to convince me that Creeping Shadow
is a traitor,” she answered. “Why should I trust your word in place of
what I know of her? The day of my deliverance may be far off, the way of
its accomplishment may be hard, but I shall be freed at last. For this
my faithful servants work, as you shall find.”

Still the Wizard sought to stir her, to break down her courage. “How
unfortunate it is that you have no prince to aid in this good work,” he
taunted. “Such a prince as Radiance, perhaps—he, whom you ran such risks
to aid. But he has returned to the Land of Fire with his pale princess
and will hardly trouble himself now to release you from the punishment
that you are enduring because of him.”

Proudly the Shadow Witch raised her head, and for the first time since
her imprisonment there were tears in her beautiful eyes. “Whether or no
he remembers me in the midst of his joy,” she answered, “Whether or no
he will succor me in my need, I shall never be sorry that I helped him
to deliver his Princess. He it was who first brought brightness into my
dreary land. He it was, who, for the first time in my life, made me to
know what it is to be noble. Happy am I, then, even here and now, that
it was given me to serve him. Proud am I with a far different pride than
any that I have known before.”

The Wizard heard her in amaze. Had his sister taken leave of her
senses? What had come over the mischief-loving Shadow Witch that she
should speak in this fashion? “You behave strangely, sister,” he replied
sharply. “Can it be that it was something more than the mere pleasure of
outwitting and injuring me that led you to aid this impudent stranger,
enemy to your people and to all who dwell in this land?”

“Ay,” returned the Shadow Witch boldly. “It was indeed something more. I
could not see one so brave and good become the victim of your evil
magic; nor allow his happiness to be destroyed by those wicked ones who
plotted for his destruction. He has awakened me to what we are, and I
tell you now that if once I escape from the power of your dark spell, I
shall bid you and your friends farewell forever. If in my own Land of
Shadows I can cause to spring up a better magic than it has known
heretofore, it will be well. But if that hope proves vain, I shall
forsake my home, and go to that land of brightness and good magic from
whence this prince came, and there learn nobler ways and find a truer
home.”

At these words of his sister, the Wizard burst forth in such furious
rage that his Imps, hearing, shrank back close to the wall of the
cavern, trembling with fright. “Miserable creature,” he shouted. “Is it
not enough that you have brought suffering upon me, that you should go
to the Land of Fire, carrying with you the secrets of all who dwell in
this land? Traitor! Until now I had meant to punish you but for a time;
but now I know that to release you is to prepare misfortune and
betrayal for every one of us. It shall never, never be. You have warned
me in time. You have sealed your own doom. Never, while I have power to
keep you within these walls, shall you escape to carry out your
purpose.”

“You may well say while you have power to keep me,” retorted the Shadow
Witch. “Do what you may, I shall yet be freed. Then I shall go where I
will.”

Still more enraged by her unshaken defiance, the Wizard sprang upon her
and grasped her wrists. He towered above her dark and forbidding. He
gave a sharp command to the Imps, and in an instant they had departed
with the lanterns. In the thick darkness that followed, the Shadow Witch
heard him say nothing more, but she felt that same strange magic stream
from his hands that she had felt on the day that she had first entered
her prison, and she became as weak and helpless as she did before.

When he had gone and the wall had closed behind him, she fell to weeping
wildly; not for Prince Radiance, whom she should see no more, but for
that noble brightness that he had once brought to her eyes, and with the
dread in her heart that it would never be hers.

Yet, even as she wept, ever nearer and nearer to the Cave of Darkness
came Prince Ember, hasting from the Land of Fire upon the glorious
adventure of her deliverance.



                            [Illustration]

                              CHAPTER VI


In one thing the Wizard had spoken truly: Black Shadow was a faithless
servant. As yet she had not dared to attempt to rule over her
fellow-servants, but she longed for such power and was always hoping
that some day she might obtain it. In her heart she rebelled against her
mistress; she would rebel outwardly when it was safe to do so. After a
long time had passed and still the Shadow Witch had not returned, she
began to believe that some evil had overtaken her, and if she could have
been certain of it, it would have pleased her well.

Her companions, becoming alarmed at the prolonged absence of their
mistress, had sought for her diligently in every part of her dominions,
but at last they had been compelled to give up the search. They knew
that Creeping Shadow also had departed, though upon what errand they
could not guess. Now they waited in mournful silence, beneath the
overhanging trees of the garden, hoping that they soon might have
tidings of them both.

Leaving them there Black Shadow walked apart, and as she walked she
pondered ceaselessly as to how soon she might venture to snatch at some
part at least of the power she so greatly desired.

Creeping Shadow, on her homeward way, drawing nigh to the garden, saw
her dark figure stealing solitary among the dim alleys, her head bent
upon her breast, as if in painful thought, but she could not see her
face. “She grieves for the absence of our dear mistress,” said the
faithful servant to herself. “How rejoiced she will be to hear of her
approaching deliverance.” She called to her consolingly: “Black Shadow!
Oh, Black Shadow! I bring good news!”

Hearing the voice, Black Shadow raised her head. Her face, which till
then had been free from grief or anxiety, changed suddenly to that of
one who had sorrowed deeply, and who for the first time hopes. “Good
news?” cried she. “Ah, if it comes from our mistress, tell it quickly!
We have mourned her absence so bitterly and so long!”

With such eagerness did she speak, so sincere was the sound of her
voice, that Creeping Shadow did not suspect her of deceit, but made
haste to tell her of her visit to the Wizard’s Cave, and of all that had
happened since that time.

Black Shadow drank in every word and pretended to be overjoyed. “What is
this gift which the Prince is to receive from the Elf of the
Borderland?” she asked curiously when Creeping Shadow ceased to speak.

“That was not told me,” replied Creeping Shadow. “My duty was but to
lead him to the Elf’s door and there leave him.”

Her companion bit her lip with vexation, because she was unable to
discover the business that had taken Prince Ember to the Elf. The
knowledge would have meant much to her, if she could have gained
possession of it. She said nothing more about the matter, however, but
asked many questions concerning the Prince, and Creeping Shadow,
suspecting no evil, told her all that she could, without reserve.

When Black Shadow saw that she had learned all that her companion had to
tell, she laid her hand upon her arm. “Come,” said she. “We must tell
the others. They, no less than ourselves, have grieved over the absence
of our dearly loved mistress.”

Creeping Shadow was but too eager to do so, and they set out at once.
They had gone but a little way when they came upon all the rest of the
Shadows, still sitting beneath the trees, talking sadly among themselves
with hushed voices.

When their fellow-servants saw the two approaching they sprang quickly
to their feet and hurried toward them, hoping that at last tidings of
the Shadow Witch had come.

Creeping Shadow could not contain herself until they met, but called to
them, “Rejoice! Rejoice, for soon our mistress will return to us again!”

At this glad news they all broke forth into joyful cries and rushed to
her side with rapid and excited questions, and no sooner had she begun
to answer them than Black Shadow, seizing her opportunity, slipped
silently away from them and losing herself among the trees, stole
unobserved out of the garden.

With all speed she took her way to the steep cliff that led to the Cave
of Darkness; swiftly and steadily she mounted it till she came to the
mouth of the cavern. She entered without pause. Strictly as it was
guarded by the Imps whom the Wizard had placed there, that none might
enter to bring help to the Shadow Witch, no one of them challenged Black
Shadow. They knew her and her ways—knew, also, that whatever might be
her errand, she was always a welcome guest to their master. An Imp at
once came to light her way, and she followed his flickering lantern
until she came out at last into the Cave Hall.

There she beheld the Wizard deeply engaged. He sat in his huge armchair
before a table, on which lay an ebony box filled with those wands with
which he worked his darkest magic. He took up the wands, one by one, and
ran his fingers over them carefully to test their power and having
satisfied himself that they were in perfect order, he wrapped each one
separately in a black cloth and laid it back in its place within the
casket.

The Imps were not allowed to come nearer to these wands at any time than
to touch the carefully locked casket as they bore it to and from its
place in their master’s treasure chamber, but they watched the Wizard
from a distance with eyes that twinkled sharply with curiosity as he sat
handling them openly in their presence.

Black Shadow drew near to him, and the Wizard suddenly perceiving her,
swept the remaining wands together abruptly and placed them in the
casket at once. He snapped the lid of it and locked it with a small and
twisted key which he drew from his garments. This done, he gave his
attention to his visitor.

“What is your errand, Black Shadow?” he demanded, leaning back in his
chair, and composing himself to listen.

“I bring strange news,” she replied, taking the seat before him to which
he had waved her. “Creeping Shadow has returned from the Land of Fire,
bringing word that a prince is on his way to deliver the Shadow Witch
from your hands.”

“A prince?” exclaimed the Wizard, starting forward in astonishment.

“Even so,” answered Black Shadow.

“Tell me not that it is Prince Radiance,” he cried vehemently, for
anguish seized him at the memory of the Sword of Flames.

“Nay,” returned she. “It is a stranger prince, Ember by name, who knows
not this land, nor the dangers which lie in wait for him here. What
weapons of defence he possesses, or what his magic, we cannot guess.
This only I can tell you, he is in the home of the Elf of the Borderland
at this moment, there to obtain, perhaps, some gift, or some instruction
which will make him proof against us. Whether or not Creeping Shadow
speaks falsely, she has declared to me that she knows nothing concerning
his business with the Elf.”

“I have no fear of anyone so small and peaceable as the Elf of the
Borderland,” laughed the Wizard contemptuously. “It could not be in his
power to bestow a gift of any worth. As for the prince—my servants shall
redouble their vigilance at the Cave Mouth. He cannot pass them.”

“Be not too sure of that,” Black Shadow warned him. “Of the magic of
these fairies of the Fire we know nothing. If he possesses some
enchantment by which he can pass your guards unseen, if he should find
and liberate your sister, and escape with her from your Cave—what then?
Shall one who has foiled you thus be allowed to return unmolested to his
own land?”

For a short space the Wizard sat plunged in thought, for he knew well
that beyond the boundaries of his Cave he had no power. But presently he
spoke. “I have friends who will prevent that,” he declared confidently.
“Curling Smoke waits but the word to engage himself against any who come
from the Land of Fire. The Ash Goblin needs no urging against my sister.
Too often she has made sport of him, until he has not known which way to
turn for anger. And as to the Wind in the Chimney, merely to speak to
him is to gain his consent to swoop down at once upon any adventurer
into our lands. Seek these friends of mine, Black Shadow, and bid them
lie in wait for this bold prince. Say to them that the Wizard of the
Cave relies upon their aid.”

Black Shadow rose, well pleased. With all hope of liberty for the Shadow
Witch destroyed, she saw her way to power. “I will be your willing
messenger,” she said. She turned away and followed by the piercing
glances of the Imps, she left the Cave Hall, and a little later again
passed by the guards at the Cave Mouth and came into the open country
without.

There she glanced about her, hoping to catch sight of those whom she
sought. She did not look in vain, for almost immediately the giant,
Curling Smoke, uncurled his tall form from a deep chasm in the cliff
close by and towered high above her, blocking the way.

“Whither do you go, Black Shadow?” demanded he haughtily. “You cannot
pass until you answer.”

“I have no wish to pass, for it is yourself whom I seek,” she returned.

“What is it that you desire?” he asked ungraciously, for he was no
friend to the Shadow Witch and made naught of her servants.

“I bring a message from the Wizard of the Cave,” replied she. “He
desires your assistance. Because of an ill turn that she served him, he
holds his sister prisoner, and Creeping Shadow, knowing that it would be
vain to ask any of the powerful ones in our own land to rescue her,
journeyed to the Land of Fire to ask aid of Prince Radiance.”

At the very mention of Prince Radiance, whom he hated, Curling Smoke
twisted himself about in a violent rage. “Let him not dare to return
here, lest I make short work of him!” he shouted hoarsely. “Let him not
flatter himself that he can escape me this time as he did before.”

“It is not Prince Radiance who comes, but another; that one, so Creeping
Shadow tells me, who alone is fated to set the Shadow Witch free. Prince
Ember is his name, and even now he is close by, in the house of the Elf
of the Borderland, there to receive from him, doubtless, something which
will aid him to deliver my mistress, and make him proof against any who
assail him, or who may seek to prevent his success.”

Curling Smoke laughed loud and disdainfully. “What has the Elf to give
that could avail against me and my magic?” he exclaimed. “You amuse me,
Black Shadow. Go to that weakling, the Ash Goblin, with such tales, if
you will, but do not bring them to Curling Smoke.”

“I repeat only what has been told me,” returned Black Shadow. “Whether
or not it is true, I know not. I have come to you for one thing only—to
obtain a promise for the Wizard that you will engage yourself against
this prince, wherever you may encounter him.”

Again Curling Smoke laughed, and his huge shape swayed boastfully from
side to side. “You have little need to doubt my answer,” he replied. “Do
I not hate these strangers from the Land of Fire with all my heart? Am I
not only too eager for an excuse to do them harm? Return, then, to the
Wizard, and say to him that he need have no fear that this prince will
escape me. Say to him that Curling Smoke—greatest of all magicians,
promises that it shall not be.”

This said, Curling Smoke settled again into a cleft from whence he could
watch the entire Plain of Ash. No one could approach him from thence
without being seen by him.

Black Shadow assured of the vigilance of this powerful ally, departed at
once to seek the Ash Goblin, whose low mean hovel stood at some distance
away among the ash mounds of the plain.

So despised is the Ash Goblin that few ever seek his door, and when he
heard upon it the sharp knock of Black Shadow, he started with surprise.
He crept across the dingy floor, and put his bulging eye to the keyhole
to peer through, and discover who stood without. His astonishment at
seeing Black Shadow was great, for never had she sought him out before,
but he knew that he had no reason to fear her, so he opened to her at
once.

She came in, and without waiting to be invited sank down into a seat.
The Ash Goblin made fast the door, and as he did so he turned his crafty
head to her and inquired her errand. She told him all.

“Well may you come to me,” he assured her. “I have long desired to
revenge myself upon your impudent mistress. Often she has made sport of
me with her tricking shadows. Often she has even dared to make my own
form flicker and dance before me—not as it is—indeed, but twisted and
misshapen to please her own mischievous fancy.” His eyes glinted with
malice, and Black Shadow was well pleased to find him so willing to give
his help.

“Then I will count upon you,” she said rising. “As I have told you, the
Prince is now in the Elf’s house. If you are wise, you will go and hide
yourself near it, and seize your chance to attack him as soon as he
leaves its shelter.”

“The Wizard need have no fear,” retorted the Ash Goblin. “I will surely
not miss so good an opportunity to avenge myself upon his sister.”

This ally also having been gained, Black Shadow bade him farewell, and
went to the Wind in the Chimney.

Wide is the Chimney Mouth, which gives entrance to the Wind’s dwelling,
for a giant must come and go through it. This entrance is dark, and
yawning, and perilous, and none dares enter it except at the Wind’s
will.

The voice of the Wind is loud when he laughs in glee, but it is louder a
thousandfold when he howls with rage, and when he sweeps down from his
high seat in the Chimney and rushes out into the lands beyond, whistling
or shrieking as he goes, he drives all before him, whether they will or
no.

Today the Wind rested in his home, on the great rough bench which was
his favorite seat, and Black Shadow had but to ask of the Breezes who
loitered about the Chimney Mouth whether she might go into the Wind’s
presence, to have her request granted immediately. Seldom did she trust
herself to such boisterous company, but the occasion was urgent. So she
entered, though not without some uneasiness, and went on and up the
rough uneven way, till she reached the huge cranny in the Chimney where
the Wind sat, humming a whining song to himself, as he lounged against
the Chimney wall.

He gave her no courteous greeting when she stood before him, but
stretched his mighty arm and shoved her unceremoniously into a seat not
far from himself. “What do you come to ask of me? Out with it quickly,”
he growled, with some impatience, for Black Shadow had not dared to
speak at once, but sat in silence for a moment considering how best to
deliver the message of the Wizard so that it might meet with favor.

Thus commanded, however, she delayed no longer and presently had told
her story to the end.

The Wind heard her with unconcealed pleasure. “Ho, ho!” he howled,
puffing his round cheeks till they seemed like to burst. “We shall have
great sport with this bold prince when he ventures forth from the Elf’s
dwelling. He shall nowhere be safe from me, for I am the Wind in the
Chimney, and nothing stops or stays me in what I set out to do. Prince
Ember has no magic that will be proof against me, and so far as anything
that the Elf can do for him goes, I scorn it.” So confident was he that
he laughed till the Chimney shook and rattled, and the soot that lined
its walls fell thick over the head and shoulders of his guest.

Hearing their master’s uproarious laughter, the Breezes came stealing in
to discover its cause, but the Wind frowned upon them and buffeted them
to right and left so sternly that they rushed quickly out again without
daring to speak.

The Wind turned to Black Shadow. “Go back to the Wizard,” he commanded
her gruffly. “Tell him that the Chimney shall fall in ruins, and the
Wind himself become as the faintest of his Breezes before this stranger
prince succeeds in his purpose of setting free the Shadow Witch.”

He shook his mantle, he tossed his great shaggy head and whistled
loudly. “I am the Wind—the Wind in the Chimney! Heugh, heugh! Ho, ho!
Heugh, heugh!”

Pursued by his braggart whistlings and the hoarse echoings of his mirth,
Black Shadow left him and hurried back to the Wizard’s Cave to make
known to him the success of her mission.



                            [Illustration]

                              CHAPTER VII


When Prince Ember said farewell to Creeping Shadow and stepped into the
Elf’s house, he found himself in a curious room whose walls were grey
with ash, whose floor was covered so thick with it, that his feet sank
into it, and made no sound. It was as if he trod on softest down.

In the middle of the room stood the Elf, with pudgy hand extended.
“Welcome, good Prince,” he said heartily. “You come on the business of
the Shadow Witch, for I know the knock of her servant, Creeping Shadow.
What is it that you desire?”

“I am on my way to deliver the Shadow Witch,” the Prince made answer,
taking his hand. “The Wise One has bade me ask of you a certain
marvelous Cloak of Ash, to conceal me from my enemies. He says that here
only is the secret of its making known, and that you will not refuse to
provide me with it.”

“The Wise One has spoken truly,” returned the Elf, “but he has doubtless
told you also that you must wait while this Cloak is woven especially
for you.”

“That he has,” replied Prince Ember. “But let it be done quickly, I beg
of you, for who can tell what the Shadow Witch may suffer at the hands
of her brother if my coming be long delayed.”

“Not a moment shall be lost,” the Elf assured him. Still holding him by
the hand, he drew him to a narrow door at the farther end of the room.
He opened it, and revealed beyond it the Prince saw a vast chamber,
filled with elves hurrying silently to and fro on tasks strange to him.
The moment their master entered with Prince Ember, every elf stood still
ready to hear and obey whatever command might be given to them.

“Where is the Weaver of the Cloak?” inquired the Elf. “There is work for
him to do.”

Instantly a very ancient elf separated himself from his companions, and
came to stand before the Elf of the Borderland. “I am ready, master,” he
said.

“The Cloak is to be for this Prince,” the Elf told him. “Use your best
skill in the weaving, so that it may be potent against his enemies, for
much depends upon it.”

“It will not fail him, master,” responded the Weaver confidently. His
keen old eyes swept the Prince from head to foot. He needed to take no
other measure. Then he turned to a dim loom beside the wall, and
standing before it, he began to spread the fairy warp under the watchful
eye of the Elf. As he did so the elves came hurrying noiselessly with
the magic ash which was to fill it.

Deftly the Weaver began to weave, crooning the mystic weaving-song
meanwhile, so that the magic of its words might sink into every part of
the Cloak, and make its power certain. He feared not to weave it under
the eyes of him who should receive it, for he knew well that he who
wears the Cloak, may see it woven, and hear the song, but no sooner has
the Cloak fallen upon his shoulders than he forgets what his eyes had
beheld and his ears heard. Thus the secret of the ancient Weaver remains
with the elves of the Borderland.

Steadily the Cloak of Ash grew under the skilful hands of the Weaver,
steadily the Prince watched the shuttle come and go. Never once did the
ancient Weaver rest; never once did he cease to sing his mystic song,
nor did the elves pause as they came and went, bringing the magic ash
for the Cloak’s fashioning.

At last the moment came when the Weaver’s shuttle stopped, the song
ceased and the elves stood still. The Elf turned to the Prince. “The
Cloak is finished,” he said.

He bent down and lifted it soft and silvery from the loom, and Prince
Ember stretched eager hands to receive it.

[Illustration: Prince Ember stretched eager hands to receive it.]

“Give heed to my words,” the Elf admonished him, as he delivered it to
him. “In the Cave of Darkness only will you be endangered by the spells
of the Wizard himself. There only he has power, and he never leaves its
shelter and the weapons of enchantment which it contains. But in the
lands without he has powerful and evil friends, who will not be slow to
help him against his enemies if he desires it. From all but one of these
the Cloak will conceal you.”

The Elf paused for a moment and then went on more earnestly. “Though
your foes will not behold you, yet you must be on your guard against
them, for who can say what traps they may set for you, what snares may
await you. Beware, therefore, of the Ash Goblin. He is small of
stature, but he cannot safely be despised, for he is very cunning. He
will not only assist the Wizard gladly because he hates his sister, but
for some grudge, also, that he bears to the dwellers in the Land of
Fire, he will not fail to wreak his spite on any who comes from thence.”

“I will not forget your warning,” Prince Ember promised him.

“Beware, also, of Curling Smoke,” the Elf continued. “None more wicked
and dreadful than he inhabits the lands you must pass through. He
travels far and wide, and because Prince Radiance lately conquered and
scattered him by the power of his Sword of Flames, he has vowed to be
revenged upon one and all who enter here from the land of the good Fire
Fairies.”

Again Prince Ember assured him that he would remember.

The Elf drew closer to him and laid his hand upon the Prince’s arm.
“Beware,” he adjured him solemnly, “Beware of the Wind in the Chimney.
Against him only the Cloak may not protect you. His eyes are keen to
pierce disguises. His hands are strong to break down spells. See to it
that he does not snatch from you in an unguarded moment this sheltering
Cloak.”

Once more the Prince gave his promise, and stretching his hands in
gratitude to the giver of so priceless a treasure, poured out his
thanks.

But the Elf checked him. “Speak not of it,” he protested kindly. “The
elves of the Borderland rejoice to have a part in any noble undertaking.
Only succeed, and we are well repaid.”

“The Wise One has said that I shall be victorious,” declared the Prince
confidently. “And when my task is done, and the Shadow Witch has
returned in freedom to her own land, I shall preserve as my chief
treasure this marvelous Cloak, which you have been at such pains to
weave for me.”

The Elf smiled and shook his head. “Not so,” he answered. “None takes
the Cloak of Ash from the Borderland.”

“Then I will return it safe to your hands,” the Prince assured him.

“There will be no need,” replied the Elf, “for the Cloak perishes when
its work is done.”

With these words he led him from the dim room where the marvel had been
wrought, and brought him to the outer threshold of his house. There the
Prince bade him farewell.

“Good fortune go with you,” responded the friendly Elf in a cautious
undertone. “Put on the Cloak now, and go forth.”

In obedience to his words, Prince Ember threw the Cloak about him and
fastened it securely. As its soft and delicate folds enveloped him, the
Cloak became invisible at the same time that the Prince himself became
fully concealed by it.

He lifted the latch and opened the door and passed silently out into the
Borderland.



                            [Illustration]

                             CHAPTER VIII


The Ash Goblin was filled with pride. To have his assistance asked by so
powerful a magician as the Wizard of the Cave was something that had
never before occurred. Although he was small and weak, he was always
desirous of having a part in any mischief that might be going on, and
now that his chance had come he was determined to prove to all those who
had hitherto despised him and overlooked him, that his cunning and skill
in evil magic were fully equal to their own.

Scarcely had the door of his hovel closed upon Black Shadow than he
locked it securely. Then he hurried across the room and pressed upon a
certain spot in the wall. It yielded to his touch, and a portion of the
wall slid back upon itself, showing a small, rude cupboard within. Upon
a shelf there lay a book, covered with dust. It was his Book of Craft.
He took it out and carried it to a table. He undid the rough clasp that
bound the book and began to turn the dingy pages. At length, he reached
the one whereon the spell that he sought was written. The letters were
crabbed and dim with age, and the Ash Goblin strained his eyes to see
them, following the words with his crooked forefinger. He read the spell
through carefully, again and again, until he was certain that he knew it
by heart. Then he closed the book and returned it to its hiding-place.
He made the wall fast again, and went to the chest that held his pouch
and cloak. Taking them out, he carried the pouch to the hearth and
filled it to the brim with the evil ash that lay thick there. He bound
the pouch about his waist, covered himself from head to foot with the
cloak and left the hovel, closing the door tightly, so that none could
enter in his absence.

The Plain of Ash stretches wide and grey between the hovel of the Ash
Goblin and the Borderland where the Elf dwells. In the Borderland itself
no evil fairy can practice his craft, but the Ash Goblin knew a spot
where the Plain meets the Borderland, which all must cross in passing
from the Elf’s house to the Wizard’s Cave, or from the Cave to the Land
of Shadows. At this spot he purposed to set a cunning snare for Prince
Ember.

Across the great Plain he scuttled in haste. So like to the ashes about
him was he in color that only those who knew him well would have been
able to see him at all. He held his head down, and his hood was pulled
low over his forehead, but though his face was carefully concealed, his
sharp eyes peered out, searching the Plain to see if the Prince were
anywhere about. But there was no sign of him, and being satisfied that
he was still within the Elf’s dwelling, the Ash Goblin went rapidly to
the spot which he had chosen, with eyes fixed upon the door through
which the Prince must come.

He had not quite reached the place, when suddenly he saw the Elf’s door
opening slowly. Vexed that he had not arrived in time, but knowing how
great a risk he should run if he were seen by the Prince before the
snare was set, he dropped down quickly beside a hillock of ash, where he
could see without being seen. There he would lie hidden until Prince
Ember had gone by on his way to the Cave. After that he knew he could
make ready his snare at his leisure, sure in his heart that if the
Prince were so fortunate as to escape the Wizard, he could not fail to
be entrapped by the snare, when, as he must on his homeward journey, he
passed that way again.

But to his great surprise, although the door opened wide, it remained so
for a moment only, and then closed again silently without his having
seen anyone come out of it. Afraid to venture forth immediately, he
watched for a little longer, but the door remained shut, and finally
the Ash Goblin came out from his hiding-place and began to set his
snare, still keeping a watchful eye over the Elf’s house as he did so.

As a matter of fact, however, when the Elf’s door had stood open, Prince
Ember had passed out of it, and concealed by the Cloak of Ash, had
proceeded on his way to the Wizard’s Cave. The Ash Goblin, on his own
part, had been so well hidden by the mound of ash where he had crouched
down, that the Prince had passed close by him without having perceived
him.

So while the Ash Goblin worked busily upon his snare, Prince Ember
traversed the Plain of Ash, keeping always in view that black cliff
toward which Creeping Shadow had pointed before she had left him. Even
from a distance it looked forbidding, yet the bold spirit of the Prince
did not quail at the thought of the unknown dangers that awaited him
there. Straight forward he went over the long stretches of ash, past
high mounds and low grey hillocks, and through shallow vales. As he
journeyed he remembered the Elf’s warning, and would not have been
surprised if he had been set upon at any moment by any of the foes that
had been mentioned to him. But a deep silence filled the Plain, and
nowhere did he see anything that could molest him. Never had the Prince
believed that there could be a land so empty and so lonely.

He arrived at the foot of the cliff and began to mount the steep path
that led to the Cave’s mouth. Up and up he went, still on his guard, but
still seeing no foe and hearing no sound. Now on this side, now on that,
deep and dark crevices yawned, but his feet went surely and safely on.

In one of these same crevices, Curling Smoke lay hidden, peering out
with watchful eyes across the grey expanse, to catch the first glimpse
of the ruddy stranger of whom Black Shadow had told him, yet under his
very eyes the Prince was traveling and he saw him not.

At length Prince Ember reached the entrance to the Wizard’s Cave.
Standing there, he looked first across the Plain and then into the gloom
of the cavern, but no enemy was in sight. Quickly he removed the Cloak
of Ash and then, as fairy raiment always may when fairy fingers press
it, it became as small as a kerchief in his hand. He thrust it to a
place of safety in his belt.

If Curling Smoke had but leaned a little farther out at that moment from
the dark hollow in the cliff-side where he lay, he must surely have
seen him, but crouching low, so that he might not be seen by the one for
whom he watched, he saw nothing and did not guess that the Prince was
actually within reach of his giant arms.

So, guarded from all his enemies, Prince Ember passed into the Cave of
Darkness, not knowing how well the Elf’s good gift had already served
him.



                            [Illustration]

                              CHAPTER IX


Close to the mouth of the Cave of Darkness, but cleverly hidden from the
view of any passerby, sat a company of Imps. They had been commanded to
keep ceaseless watch at that point for the stranger Prince who was
expected soon to appear, and they were instructed to seize him as soon
as he attempted to enter the Cave and to bring him bound to their
master.

The time had been long, and they were now yawning for very weariness,
yet they dared not relax their vigilance, knowing, as they did, that
they would be severely punished by the Wizard if they allowed the Prince
to slip by them unobserved.

At last one of the Imps arose and stretched himself, for his limbs were
cramped and stiff. “I go to spy out over the Plain,” he said. “I shall
be absent but a moment.”

His companions nodded indifferently, and he strolled slowly toward the
entrance of the cavern. All at once, he stopped, transfixed with
surprise, for at the Cave Mouth he saw for a single instant a richly
glowing figure standing, one who could be no other than the stranger
Prince, he for whom they waited. Scarcely had he seen it, however, than
it disappeared.

He rushed back to his fellows. “The Prince is here!” he whispered
hoarsely. “I saw him at the Cave Mouth. To be sure he has vanished, but
I know he is close by.”

The Imps started to their feet, and stood ready, the ropes of darkness
with which they were to bind the Prince clutched firmly in their hands.
But no one appeared, and when they searched the Cave Mouth, they did so
in vain.

Presently they began to scoff at their companion. “Your eyes are wearied
with long watching,” they told him. “They have played you false. Come
not to us with such idle tales.”

“Nay, but I saw him,” the Imp insisted. “Without doubt this Prince has
the power to make himself invisible. Even now he may have slipped past
us unseen. If this be so, and I fail to tell the Wizard what I saw, I
shall surely be punished. I go to warn him.”

The others shrugged their shoulders. “Go if you choose,” they said. “For
our own part, we think it not impossible that he lurks in some near-by
hiding-place, from whence he steals forth at times, watching his
opportunity to slip in unobserved. He saw you, and has retreated to it.
We will keep close watch as before. He will return, and then we will
secure him. If, on the other hand, he has power to make himself
invisible, and passes us unseen, we are not to blame.”

Even as they spoke thus, Prince Ember stood near them, listening to
their words. It was as the first Imp had suspected. On passing into the
Cave of Darkness, he had, by his own power of enchantment, made himself
invisible, and having overheard the watchers talking together, he had
paused, so that the Imp who had seen him might go before him and without
being aware of it, would guide him directly to the Wizard.

The Imp did not stop to argue longer with his companions, but snatched
up a lantern, and sped off at once, and close behind him went the unseen
Prince. As they went onward, Prince Ember saw opening to either side of
them many hushed and gloomy passageways, down which, without his guide,
he might easily have strayed, but by his unexpected good fortune, and
far sooner than, at the beginning of his journey, he had dared to hope,
he came suddenly into the great Cave Hall. Its grim walls rose high on
all sides, close hung with their swaying curtains of soot. The
glistening fragments of charcoal that covered its floor, lay like a
thick carpet beneath the feet.

In the centre of the vast room stood the Wizard, quite alone. Forbidding
enough in himself, clad as he was in long black robes, over which his
dingy beard fell from his grim face almost to his feet, he seemed yet
more so because of the huge black urns that were ranged about him in a
circle. The sides of the urns were covered with curious inscriptions,
and only the Wizard knew by these signs what deadly mists and vapors
were confined under their ponderous lids.

On a table at his side his case of evil wands stood open, and as he
needed the one or the other for his enchantments, he lifted it out and
waved it over the urn which he chose, muttering strange words meanwhile
in an unknown tongue. His Book of Craft, also, lay open before him, so
that he might diligently consult it before the working of each new
spell. At this moment he was bending above it, wand in hand, reading
intently.

Even in his zeal to disclose to his master what had happened at the
entrance to the cavern, the Imp dared not tread within that circle of
enchantment. He cast himself upon his knees without it, bowed low his
head, and cried aloud, “Sir Wizard, oh, Sir Wizard! Harken!”

Interrupted in such unexpected fashion while he was in the midst of his
wicked task, the Wizard turned abruptly and bent upon his servant a
glance of dark displeasure. “How dare you disturb me in the working of
my spells?” he thundered. “Have I not strictly forbidden any to tread
within this Hall during the Hour of Enchantments?”

“Alas, that I should have ventured to disobey you, my master!”
stammered the Imp with trembling voice. He knew well the punishment that
waited on disobedience, yet he feared far more what might be meted out
to him if he should withhold that which he had come to say. “Only the
news I bring,” he continued humbly, “could have made me disobey your
commands.”

The Wizard perceived that this was a matter of real importance. He laid
down his wand, therefore, and prepared to listen. “What is it that you
have come to tell?” he demanded.

Encouraged thus, the Imp began. “As I stood near the Cave Mouth, I had a
sudden vision of a stranger in ruddy garments. He stood at the entrance
for an instant only, but plain to be seen against the light, and then
vanished, I know not whither. It may be that my eyes deceived me, for
when we made diligent search we could find no trace, but it may be,
also, that he has made himself invisible, and is even now among us. Lest
it might be this stranger Prince, perchance, for whom you bade us watch,
I have left my companions on guard as before, while I came to tell you
what I believe that I beheld. I dared not do otherwise.”

“You have done wisely,” commended the Wizard. “Without doubt it is the
Prince of whom Black Shadow has told me, for she said that we may know
him by his ruddy garments. Whether or not he has made himself invisible,
he shall not escape me. If he is here, I shall surely find him out. Rise
now, and return to your watch with the rest.”

Silently the Imp arose and obeyed. Prince Ember standing but a little
distance from the mystic urns, heard his swift footfalls echo down the
corridor.

The Wizard stood for a moment wrapped in thought, but presently he laid
down the wand which he held in his hand and chose another from the case.
He raised it aloft and waved it in a great circle above his head. “By
the power of this wand,” he exclaimed, “I bid any who stand invisible
within this Cave Hall to become visible at once.”

As he heard the words, Prince Ember’s heart stood still. He knew not the
power of the Wizard’s wand, nor whether his own magic would surely be
proof against it. But his own spell held firm, and he remained
invisible.

So certain was the Wizard of the potency of his wand, that he smiled
grimly and confidently when he saw none appear. Leaving the circle of
his urns, he stepped to the entrance to the corridor, and drew his wand
across it. “Let none pass this threshold unseen,” he cried in a loud
voice.

Satisfied that he now had made all secure, he returned, Prince Ember
watching him meanwhile. He took his place amid the urns and replaced his
wand in the box with its fellows. He dropped the lid and turned the key.
He closed and locked his Book of Craft, also.

Then he smote his hands together sharply and, at the signal, the Chief
Imp came rushing to learn his desire.

“Take away these urns,” the Wizard commanded, “and place my wands and
book in safe-keeping.”

The Chief Imp raised the Book of Craft from the table and bearing it
carefully in his outstretched hands, disappeared with it from the Hall.
A moment later he returned and carried away the box of wands in the
same manner. With him came many Imps, who laid hands upon the ponderous
urns and with heavy rumblings rolled them slowly away out of the Cave
Hall.

In the meanwhile Prince Ember stood still watchful beside the wall,
waiting for some clue which would guide him to where the Shadow Witch
lay imprisoned, for he knew well that without this he must surely go
astray. He had not long to wait, for when presently the Imps came
flocking back to the Cave Hall, as they were always free to do when the
Hour of Enchantment was done, the Wizard gave a sign to his
lantern-bearers.

“I go to visit my sister, the Shadow Witch,” he said.

Immediately they snatched up their lights and stood ready.

The Wizard crossed to the farther end of the Cave Hall and touched the
wall with his wand. Prince Ember saw the wall part instantly in twain,
revealing the dim corridor beyond it.

The Imps plunged quickly into it holding aloft their flickering lanterns
that gave out but a feeble light in the gloom. The Wizard strode after
them, and at his very side stole the Prince, overjoyed at this sudden
and unexpected opportunity.

The Wizard paused and touched the wall again, and it closed soundlessly
behind them. Then they went forward.

Deep and yet deeper, into the very heart of the Cave they penetrated,
following its dark and winding ways. The Prince observed each turn
closely, so that when he should return bringing with him the Shadow
Witch, he might find his way out without error.

At length they reached the wall that barred her dungeon, and the Wizard
struck upon it as he had the other. It yawned apart in its turn, and
with such impetuous zeal did Prince Ember hasten toward the opening that
he entered before the rest the sombre prison that lay within.

In the first moment he saw nothing, but as the Imps pressed into the
room and ranged themselves along the walls, he was enabled, by the light
of their glimmering lanterns to descry a dim bowed figure seated there.

It was the Shadow Witch. Her face was buried in her delicate hands. Her
long black hair hung loose over her drooped shoulders and grey garments,
and fell in masses upon the ground. Plunged as she was in deep despair,
even the opening of the wall had failed as yet to make her sensible of
the coming of her brother and his servants.

Beholding her thus, Prince Ember was stirred to deepest pity, and his
heart burned to speak some instant word of comfort. With a powerful
effort he restrained himself, for to betray his presence to the Wizard
now would be to encounter he knew not what evil power, to endanger his
chance of delivering her whom he had come to save.

That which so moved the heart of the Prince to compassion, awoke only
malicious delight in the Wizard’s breast.

“Ah, my sister,” he said mockingly, drawing near to her, “I find you
less confident today than when we last met. Hope fades I see.”

His voice aroused her. She lifted her head and raised herself slowly to
her feet, and as she turned herself toward the Wizard, Prince Ember
beheld her face for the first time.

He looked upon its wondrous beauty, he saw upon it the marks of the pain
that she had endured, he gazed into the splendor of her great dark eyes,
and love for her rose within him like a flood, a love so warm, so
strong, that he knew instantly, and for a certainty, that in her he had
found his true Princess, she whom he could not choose but love with his
whole heart. Thrilled with joy because of it, he waited for her voice.

Silvery calm it fell upon his ear as she answered the Wizard. “Though
hope may seem to fade for a moment, brother, it rises fast and soon, for
there is that within my breast that tells me that you cannot always
hold me thus.”

She would have given much had the Wizard not found her sunken in
despair, but since he had done so, she was determined that he should not
guess how deep that despair had been.

The Wizard smiled contemptuously at her words, and added taunt to taunt.
“It tells you, perchance, of that Prince, then, who lingers near the
Cave Mouth, seeking entrance, in the belief, no doubt, that he can
succeed in snatching you from this prison, and from my power. But let
him not deceive himself. My guards are many and watchful—my friends
without are strong and clever. He will never be able to escape all of
these, try how he may.”

The Shadow Witch started violently at such unexpected words. The help
that she had yearned for had come! Prince Radiance, to whom she had
been so true a friend, had not forsaken her in her need! That hope, of
which she had boasted, and which had so nearly faded from her heart,
sprang again to fulness of life. She threw up her arms in uncontrollable
rejoicing, and her voice rang sweet and high and clear as she exclaimed:
“Ah, he has come at last, the good Prince Radiance! He has not failed
me! Think not that your guards can stay him. Think not that your evil
friends are able to destroy him. He has conquered them once—he will
conquer again. Already you yourself have felt his mystic power. You
shall feel it once more, my brother, when he returns. I have done well
to hope!”

“Nay, not so fast,” the Wizard flung at her scornfully. “He who comes is
not Prince Radiance, but some stranger prince. One who owes you no
friendship, whose power is untested, who has no cause to brave great
dangers for your sake—grey woman that you are. From the perils that he
must meet he will soon turn back, if indeed he live to do so.”

Undismayed, undiscouraged, the Shadow Witch bent her dark eyes upon him.
“What matter that he is a stranger?” she cried confidently. “They who
come from that bright land count themselves no strangers to the weak and
the defenceless. They have, too, their own noble magic, before which
ours is powerless. In a moment when you think not it will be upon you,
and its spell will overcome you. This prince is my friend! I know it
well! The hour of my deliverance is at hand!”

Loud rang the laughter of the Wizard. Harsh and vibrant it filled all
the room and echoed back from the gloomy walls. “Think you I would tell
you of this prince, did I not know that he cannot reach you? Far hid
from him are you, my sister,” he triumphed, “so deep within this Cave,
and behind such walls as he can never penetrate, whatever be his magic.
The secret that unlocks your dungeon lies with me only, and with those
to whom I choose to entrust it. The spell that holds it fast is the
all-potent spell of the Wizard of the Cave.”

Proudly and boastfully he spoke, but all that he might say had no power
to dim the hope and confidence of his sister. She deigned him no reply,
but by her bearing he knew that she feared him not at all.

“When I come again,” he jeered at her, “I will bring you further news of
this good prince, and how his adventure fares. It will give you food
for thought, perchance, as you sit here in your darkness.”

“It will indeed sustain me, brother,” she replied.

Prince Ember, near to her, though unseen, listening to her dauntless
words, loved her yet more for her high courage and for her sorrowful
beauty.

Still smiling scornfully, the Wizard turned away. The Imps knowing that
he was now ready to depart, raised their lanterns. Their master touched
the wall. It opened wide, and in an instant master and slaves were gone,
and the walls met silently and grimly together behind them. Beyond its
barrier their retreating footsteps grew fainter and yet fainter until
soon they could no longer be heard.

Alone, as she believed herself now to be, in the imprisoning darkness,
the Shadow Witch let fall her head and sighed deeply. “Ah, that the time
may not be long,” she murmured. “Ah, that this prince might hasten his
coming, for I am very weary, even though I hope.”

Then from the darkness near her came a voice. “Princess of the Shadows,”
it breathed, “I, Prince Ember am here.”

At the words her heart leapt within her breast. She raised her head
quickly, thinking to pierce the blackness that surrounded her and behold
the one who spoke. As she did so the gloom melted, and in its place a
soft warm glow flooded all her prison. By its rich light she saw before
her a glorious figure, clad all in deepest rose—Prince Ember, freed from
his dark disguise. The radiant brightness of his ruddy garments made
warmth and light about him. His eyes, ardent and glowing, were bent
upon her, filled with a tenderness of sympathy and compassion, with a
fulness of love, that struck to her soul. His hands were stretched to
her, his spirit drew her.

[Illustration: She saw before her a glorious figure, Prince Ember.]

A cry of wonder broke from the lips of the Shadow Witch. With her large
eyes fixed upon him, sorrow fled from her face, and in its stead came
joy where joy had never dwelt before. How had he come to her? she asked
herself, to her in this dark prison? How had he pierced the thickness of
those cruel walls? Why should his eyes rest with love upon her, the grey
Shadow Witch? And yet it was true—he was here, this glorious prince—come
to save her!

Her face dropped suddenly to her quivering hands, lest it should betray
to him too plainly how her heart went out to him, in love and gratitude.
Radiance, that first bright prince, had awaked her to keenest longings
for a nobler life, a truer magic. But he who stood before her now gave
this, and more—gave love, brought happiness.

The Prince came nearer till he was close beside her, and as he did so,
her cheek, till now so pale, flushed to a crimson glory against the
dusky splendor of her hair. Gently he drew away her shielding hands and
looked into her lovely face, bright as none but he had ever seen it.
Gently he raised her drooping head and looked into the sweetness of her
eyes. “Dear Shadow Witch,” he whispered tenderly, “come, ah, come with
me, and leave behind forever the darkness of this evil place.”

Low was her voice and soft as she made answer: “Happy, thrice happy am
I, Prince Ember, that I may leave it with you.”



                            [Illustration]

                               CHAPTER X


When the Wizard parted from his sister, he believed that she was
hopelessly in his power, but as he proceeded on his way, he began to
recall to himself how defiantly she had borne herself at the last, and
with what confidence she had spoken. He remembered, too, how often she
had baffled and eluded him before he had imprisoned her, and he knew
that it was not entirely impossible that she might do so again. Could
she but release herself from the deep darkness that surrounded her, all
her own magic would return to her, and then, in spite of all his guards,
she might be able by means of one of her clever tricks, to make her way
to liberty.

Thinking of these things, he reached a bend in the corridor where two
ways met. The one went directly on to the Cave Hall, but the other led
away into that remote and dangerous part of the cavern where lay the Pit
of Fumes. Thither he was wont to go to practice his most secret arts. No
Imps ever dared to tread that way, for it was well known that none but
himself could pass over it in safety.

He paused, for he suddenly bethought himself of how easily he could, by
a stroke of enchantment, close with a wall the way to the Cave Hall and
leave only that one open which led to the Pit of Fumes. Then if by some
strange means his sister should contrive to escape from her dungeon, she
would unsuspectingly go on to the Pit of Fumes. This she would be unable
to pass, and would, therefore, be forced to return to the prison that
she had left.

The Wizard laughed aloud, for the thought pleased him well. He
determined to prepare this trap for her at once. Abruptly he bade the
Imps to rest their lanterns. They did so and stood motionless with eyes
fixed on their master. The Wizard bent on them his sternest gaze. “Let
none dare to look upon that which I am about to do,” he commanded.

Immediately his slaves fell upon their knees, and with eyes fast shut
and heads bowed to the dust, meekly awaited his pleasure. It was as if
they held their very breath, so deep was the silence of the Cave.

From beneath his cloak the Wizard drew his jet black wand. He waved it
toward the walls and repeated, in a voice so low that none but himself
could hear them, strange words of enchantment. Under their spell, the
Cave walls began to draw slowly together, and before long they stood
firmly closed across the way by whence he had come.

Replacing his wand, the Wizard turned to where his servants still knelt
with guarded eyes. “Arise, and go forward,” he commanded them.

With one accord they sprang to their feet, and without one glance behind
to discover what their master had done, they went rapidly ahead of him.

While the Wizard departed in content, Prince Ember made ready to open
the dungeon of the Shadow Witch so that she might go free. With her at
his side he stood before the thick wall that barred the way to the
corridor. He laid his hand upon his fairy sword, and unsheathed it. It
glowed and burned with living fire.

With its bright point he touched the wall in that selfsame place where
the Wizard was wont to pass through, and on its blackness he traced the
scarlet outline of a door.

Breathlessly the Shadow Witch followed with her eyes the moving point of
fire, followed it till the outline was complete, and the sword fell back
into its sheath. Without a word, but with swiftly beating heart, she
waited in her place by Prince Ember’s side to see what wondrous thing
that sword could do.

Wondrous indeed, for silently and of itself the door swung open, and
the corridor that led to freedom was before her.

Prince Ember took her hand, and together they crossed the threshold, but
when they had passed it he paused, and spoke one charmed word. As
silently as it had opened, the door closed behind them at its creator’s
command, and its outlines vanished, leaving the wall the grim unbroken
barrier that it had been before.

“Ah, my good Prince!” whispered the Shadow Witch looking upon it. “What
magic is yours!”

He spoke no word in answer, but raised her hand to his lips and kissed
it.

Then they began their journey along the windings of the corridor, that
stretched away and away into a gloom that seemed to have no end. Yet the
place where they trod was bright about them, made so by the ruddy glow
which streamed from the figure of Prince Ember. In the warmth and cheer
of it the Shadow Witch glided happily, and as they left her prison
farther and farther behind, she became more and more her former self,
and again felt stirring to life within her that old-time power of magic
of which she had been so long deprived.

They came at length to the wall which the Wizard had set to mislead his
sister. Seeing nothing to arouse their suspicions, they went straight
on. After traveling for some distance, however, Prince Ember all at once
became aware that it was not the way over which he had gone with the
Wizard and his servants. He stopped, and began to look sharply about
him. On every hand it was unfamiliar to him.

The Shadow Witch saw that he was troubled, but she could not guess the
reason. “What is it?” she asked anxiously.

“When we left the prison,” he answered, “we took the way by which I had
come to you. There was no other. But now it is not the same.”

“There has been no place where we could have turned aside,” she assured
him. “Nowhere has there appeared any other way open to us.”

“And yet we have gone astray,” the Prince insisted. “There can be no
doubt of it. All that I see now, I have never seen before.”

“You are sure of it?” asked his companion.

“I am sure of it.”

The eyes of the Shadow Witch flashed with sudden understanding. “It is
the enchantment of my brother,” she declared. “Lest, perhaps, I should
escape him, he has closed the true way, and left this open as a trap for
me. Be sure that it leads not to the Cave Hall, except through dangers
into which he believes that I will not dare to venture.”

“Be these dangers what they may,” replied Prince Ember, “I will, by my
good magic, overcome them all. And now, since there is no way but this,
let us go upon it without tarrying.”

“Indeed, we cannot choose but take it,” agreed the Shadow Witch.

They resumed their journey, therefore, and now, though the way behind
them had been gloomy, that which stretched before them grew more and
more so; yet the darker it became about them, the brighter was the glow
that streamed from Prince Ember, and the more surely was the Shadow
Witch sustained and cheered thereby.

After a while, they saw that they were approaching an open space, which
was wrapped in thick darkness. Beyond it their eyes could not penetrate,
but in its midst they beheld shapes like wreaths of vapor arising from
below.

The Shadow Witch turned pale, and caught Prince Ember by the arm to draw
him back. “Go no farther!” she cried in warning. “Go no farther, I beg
of you! Yonder is certain destruction for us both! It is the Pit of
Fumes! Those dread and yellow mists carry poison in their breath!”

“Though that be so, yet I must conquer them, for behind us lies your
prison,” the Prince replied to her. “To it we must not return.”

“Never shall you risk such danger for my sake,” the Shadow Witch
answered firmly. “Better an endless prison for me than such dreadful
peril for you. I speak of what I know—none but my brother has ever dared
to enter yonder place. You shall not go.”

“And when this place is passed,” demanded the Prince, “what lies
beyond?”

“What matters it what lies beyond, when destruction lies between?” she
murmured sadly. “Were the way ever so open when the Pit is passed, it is
closed to us who stand upon this side.”

“What lies beyond?” demanded he again. “Answer me truly, for I must
know.”

Then the Shadow Witch knew that she must tell him. She covered her face
with her hands, and her tears fell fast. For a moment she could not
speak.

Prince Ember dried her tears with a tender hand. “What lies beyond?” he
insisted gently.

The Shadow Witch clung to him desperately. “The way to the Cave Hall,”
she admitted. “But, oh, I cannot let you venture where the Pit lies. No,
no! Many times have I heard my brother boast to his neighbors that none
but himself can draw nigh to it.”

“Listen, dear Shadow Witch,” said the Prince consolingly, “yonder is a
place of terror, in very truth, yet we shall pass it safely, in spite of
that. There is good magic which can put to naught even this evil Pit of
your brother’s. Look—I will show you.”

He thrust his hand into his breast, and took out a small round box which
was hidden there. “This is the gift of him who is oldest and wisest in
all the Kingdom of the Fire,” he told her. “When he gave it, he assured
me that when the dangers of the way were greatest, when the way itself
seemed closed beyond all hope, that this which my box contains will
conquer the danger and make the road to safety plain.”

Opening the box he took out the piece of charcoal that lay within.

“Stay you here,” he bade her, “until I have prepared the way.”

But she was not willing that he should go without her. “Whatever comes,
we meet it side by side,” she declared.

Nothing that he could say would persuade her to do otherwise, and so at
last he consented, but as they drew nearer to the Pit, the noisome odor
of its fumes swept toward her and overcame her. Her face grew pale, and
she began to sink to the ground.

The Prince knew, that in spite of her courage, she could endure no
more. He led her back a little way, and forced her gently to rest upon a
jutting of the wall. There he left her, weak and trembling, to await his
return.

Stronger arose the breath of the Pit, and yet more deadly grew its fumes
as the Prince drew near it, but he was undismayed. Straight toward the
yellow mists he went, and in his hand was the gift of the Wise One.
Presently, he reached that point where he himself dared go no farther.
The choking vapors floated round him, but the Pit itself, yawning wide
and terrible, was still some distance from where he stood. Now he must
trust to the strength of his arm, to the sureness of his aim. He drew
himself to his full height; he threw back his arm, and hurled the magic
charcoal straight to its mark. “Descend into this Pit!” he cried, as it
left his hand. “Descend, and make this evil place to exhale no more!”

Like an arrow it sped. Into the very heart of the Pit it fell, and then
were the Wise One’s words fulfilled. Like surly slaves, obeying
unwillingly, the yellow mists sank back into the Pit, lower and lower,
till they were seen no more, and with them went their noisome breath,
leaving the air pure and clean. As they vanished, the way which led out
of this hollow chamber to the corridor beyond lay plainly visible along
the very edge of the Pit.

Prince Ember was about to go and fetch the Shadow Witch from where he
had left her, but he had no need. She had felt her strength come
flooding back to her when the mists departed, and immediately she rose
and came to him.

“Why should I ever fear, when you are with me?” she whispered to him.
“How can I ever fail to trust your power to conquer and to save?”

Away from the now vanquished Pit of Fumes they hurried, along a corridor
as dusky and deserted as the first had been. Before they had gone far
upon it, they heard the low murmuring of voices, and soon they found
themselves at the entrance to a low and vaulted chamber, dark like all
the rest, but set about with dim lanterns and peopled with many Imps,
busy at strange tasks.

Some stood before dingy looms, weaving huge curtains of soot, to replace
those which covered the walls in the Cave Hall, when they should become
worn, and drop to pieces. Others sat upon blocks of charcoal and braided
ropes of darkness to bind those who disobeyed the Wizard’s will and
though they knew that they themselves might at any time be bound by
them, they durst not make them less strong than their master ordained
that they should be.

Over them stood the Chief Imp, whose business it was to see that none
failed in his duty, or gossiped unduly with his neighbors, and so deeply
engaged in their several tasks were one and all, that none heard the
sound of approaching footsteps, none knew that any but themselves were
near, till quite by accident the Chief Imp raised his head and saw
within the doorway of the chamber the ruddy form of Prince Ember
standing, and by his side the grey Shadow Witch, whom all had believed
to be closely guarded by the walls of her distant prison.

Before the Chief Imp could give a command, before any other could cry
out, or attempt evil, the Prince had drawn forth a wand from beneath his
mantle and raised it. Clear and strong his voice fell on their ears,
saying, “Stir not from your places, nor speak, until the hour when the
feet of the Shadow Witch stand once more within the safe borders of her
own land.”

Under Prince Ember’s spell each servant of the Wizard became fixed in
his place, unable to move or to utter a syllable. With staring eyes they
beheld the Prince and his companion advance, and pass through their very
midst, whilst they remained powerless to so much as stretch out a hand
to clutch at their garments.

In their rebellious ears the words of his enchantment were still ringing
as he departed with the Shadow Witch from their sight.



                            [Illustration]

                              CHAPTER XI


Prince Ember and the Shadow Witch were now rapidly approaching the Cave
Hall. On their way they passed other vaulted chambers, like the one they
had just left, and glancing into these as they hastened by, they saw
great urns with ponderous lids, and enormous chests, all marked with the
signs of the Wizard, filled, as the Shadow Witch was well aware, with
those evil things with which he worked his spells, but not an Imp was
anywhere to be seen.

She glided cautiously to the door of one of these rooms and peeped in.
She found, as she had supposed, that it was the bedchamber of her
brother. His huge bed, with its jet black coverings and pillows stood
ready to receive him; his tall chair was set close beside it. Near by
was his special treasure chest, in which his choicest wands and
spellbooks were locked carefully away from prying fingers, but this room
was as silent and deserted as all the rest.

On a sudden they heard loud rapping, which became still louder, and then
a harsh voice crying out in angry tones, again and yet again.

“It is my brother calling for his Imps,” whispered the Shadow Witch. “He
is not used to have them tarry when he summons them.”

It was as she said: the Wizard, in the Cave Hall, was grey with rage.
Never before had he called to his servants without their scurrying on
nimble feet to learn his desires, but this time he had struck repeatedly
upon the arm of his chair, and had lifted his voice louder and louder,
yet neither the Chief Imp nor any other came. He knew where and how they
should be employed at this time, and if they were doing their duty, they
were within sound of his voice. How they could dare not to answer him,
how they could be deaf when he summoned them, the Wizard could not
understand.

The Shadow Witch stole closer to Prince Ember, and spoke beneath her
breath. “The Wizard is but a few yards from us,” she said. “A moment
more, and we must encounter him. I do not fear him now, for in this part
of the Cave my power has always been fully equal to his own. The truth
is, I have more than once defeated him here. He remembers it well.
Yet—I was long bound by that dark prison—long subject to his power.
Before I return to the Land of Shadows, I must test myself, for I wish
to be certain that I can still meet and defy him in his Cave Hall
without being conquered by him; but in order to make sure of myself I
must go before him quite alone.”

Prince Ember shook his head. “I would not have you venture it,” he
objected. “The risk is too great.”

“Not when you are near me,” she told him confidently. “If the moment
should come when I know that I am unable to resist him longer, I will
call to you, and you will hasten to my help.”

Reluctantly the Prince consented, and she glided away from him with
soundless footsteps. Close, close behind her he followed till they
reached the threshold of the Cave Hall. There he tarried out of sight,
yet where his eyes could still keep guard over her.

The Wizard, provoked beyond measure by the inattention of his servants,
was about to rise from his chair to go and learn the reason, and to
punish them, when suddenly a low-toned laugh struck on his ears. It
startled him, for it was the familiar laughter of his sister—his sister,
whom he believed to be far away, hopelessly imprisoned in the deepest
recesses of his cavern. He turned his head in the direction from whence
it came, and as he half rose from his seat, puzzled and uncertain, it
echoed a second time through the Cave. It came from close by, in that
dusky corridor that led to his own bedchamber, led to the rooms beyond
where the Imps were busy, ay—and led on still further to his Pit of
Fumes. By that way his sister could not pass. He smiled cruelly as he
thought of that inconquerable barrier to her coming. By the other way
there was the double wall, sealed by his enchantment. Remembering these
things he was certain that he but imagined that he had heard her echoing
laugh.

Even as he said this, he heard it again, and stealing toward him from
out the corridor came a grey figure, laughing as she came. He gazed at
it in wonder. It could not really be the Shadow Witch, he told himself.
It must be that his eyes were deceiving him.

Impossible as it seemed, however, he presently saw that it was she who
stood before him, knew that it was her own voice that rang clear and
triumphant in his ears.

“The dungeon in which you thought to hold me was not strong enough when
that day came of which I warned you, brother,” she declared. “By a power
stronger than yours I have escaped, and I am here in proof that you have
failed. In this place, as you well know, you can do naught against me.”

The Wizard’s eyes flashed fire. He made a step forward with hands
outstretched to seize her. “Do not boast too soon,” retorted he. “I have
yet a spell to conquer you even here.”

Although the Shadow Witch held her head high in defiance of him, she
retreated a few paces. It was true, as she had said, that she was not
afraid, but she did not mean to be without caution. She would make her
test quickly. If she could but baffle him once more with that old trick
of hers, that thus far had never failed to confound him, she would know
that she was safe against him.

She waved her grey sleeves, and instantly there fell between her and the
Wizard her magic curtain, her moving curtain of shadow. Before it stood
a shadow image, so like to herself that it deceived even the keen eyes
of the Wizard. Behind the curtain she herself was perfectly concealed.

It was done so quickly, so skilfully, that the Wizard did not guess what
had happened. He snatched at the image but when he had almost grasped
it, it withdrew from him swiftly. When he pursued it, it darted now to
this side, now to that, with marvelous agility, always seeming just
within reach of his fingers, yet always just eluding them as they began
to close upon it, and each time he failed he heard the laughter that so
mocked him.

A triumphant smile stole over the face of the Shadow Witch, for she saw
plainly that she was still able to defend herself against him. Knowing
how easily she could escape now from the Cave Hall with Prince Ember,
she was about to beckon to him, but she was too late, for in that moment
the Wizard snatched more swiftly than he had yet done at the gliding
figure before the curtain, and this time not in vain. His hands closed
upon it, indeed, but closed on nothingness, and thus he learned that he
had once more been cheated by his sister’s art.

Filled with wrath, he shouted words of enchantment, in a voice loud and
compelling, and in answer to them dense darkness descended swiftly over
all the Cave Hall, making it as black as the prison from whence the
Shadow Witch had escaped. That which she had not believed that he could
do here, he had done. Before the darkness her shadow curtain dissolved,
and she herself, crying aloud, sank down helpless to the Cave floor.

Now at last the Wizard was certain that she was utterly in his power,
was certain that there was none near to hear or answer the sharp cry for
help which she had given when she fell. He bent down through the gloom
to seize her, but as he did so, the darkness broke and fled, and in its
place a rich warm light came flooding through the Cave Hall. It shone
upon the evil face of the Wizard stooping there; it made plain the form
of the Shadow Witch where she lay.

Startled by this strange light, the Wizard threw back his head to
discover from whence it came, and beheld in the doorway the figure of
Prince Ember, standing with the Sword of Fire upraised.

It was from the Sword that this ruddy glow streamed forth, and as the
Prince advanced rapidly into the Cave Hall, the light grew more intense,
so that the Wizard could not bear to look upon its beauty, nor could he
bear the strong pure heat that flowed from the Sword as it drew nearer
and more near.

Anguish seized him, and a weakness greater even than he had felt before
the Sword of Flames in the hands of Prince Radiance. He gave a hoarse
cry to his servants for help, but they, voiceless and motionless
prisoners in their vaulted chamber, could not answer, could not come to
him, although they heard him call.

He tried to struggle to his feet, but it was quite in vain. Instead he
fell prone upon the ground. As he lay there, he saw his sister rise from
where his evil spell had cast her, saw her grow strong again, saw joy
and courage beam in her face. Her eyes were lifted to this stranger,
come to succor her with the glowing light and warmth of his conquering
Sword. By all these things he knew that the Prince, of whom Black Shadow
had warned him, had come at last.

Prince Ember stretched above his prostrate form the fiery Sword. “Cruel
and wicked master of the Cave,” he cried, “here shall you lie in bondage
to this Sword until the hour when your sister stands safely within her
own borders. Cry not to your servants yonder. They, too, are bound by my
spell and cannot answer. Cry not to your guardians of the Cave Mouth.
They also shall be enchained.”

Deep into the frame of the Wizard the magic of the Sword pierced its
way. He saw, as in a vision, the Prince put back his Sword. With dulling
eyes, he beheld his sister take the hand which the stranger tenderly
extended to her. He perceived them go together from the Cave Hall, and
into that corridor that led to freedom.

Then all sense and thought forsook him. The spell of the Sword of Fire
had so penetrated his inmost being that he no longer was aware that
beyond the Cave lurked Curling Smoke and the Ash Goblin, and that
farther away the Wind in the Chimney waited, all pledged to destroy
Prince Ember, and to prevent the escape of the Shadow Witch.

Meanwhile the two pursued their way to the Cave’s mouth. At its
entrance those Imps who had been sent to guard it still kept vigilant
watch. None had ventured to sleep or to stir from his post, for though
the time had been long, and no one had tried to pass them, they dared
not be unfaithful to their trust. They feared the Wizard’s wrath and the
punishment that would surely befall them, if anything should go amiss
through fault of theirs.

But as Prince Ember and the Shadow Witch approached them, a strange and
unfamiliar warmth stole over the watchers, benumbing all their senses.
Drowsiness came down upon them where they stood or sat, and with one
accord they began to nod, to sink off to sleep, and presently they were
wrapped in a slumber so profound that nothing could possibly break it.

This, too, was the spell of the Sword of Fire.

As the Shadow Witch passed the Imps and saw them sleeping there, some
leaning upright against the rough wall of the cavern, some with heads
bowed on knees, and others lying prostrate on the ground, she turned her
head to her companion, with a smile.

“Vain are my brother’s guards,” she murmured, “when Prince Ember comes.”



                            [Illustration]

                              CHAPTER XII


Rejoicing in the freedom which she now felt was fully restored to her,
the Shadow Witch glided from the Cave of Darkness and was about to
descend the cliff, but Prince Ember laid a gentle hand upon her, to draw
her back. “Dear Lady of the Shadows,” he said in an undertone, “we must
not go unprotected into the open. It may be that unseen enemies are
lurking there, who at least have power to hinder us, even if they cannot
harm us. I have in my possession a magic Cloak, which will make us
invisible to our enemies, and enable us to go securely and swiftly on
our way. Let us put it on.” So saying, he drew her still closer to him,
and took from his belt the Cloak of Ash and cast it about them both.

She thanked him sweetly for his constant care of her, and side by side
they went down the cliff.

But though they were now unseen, they had stood for a moment before the
Cave entrance, fully revealed, and in that moment the eyes of an enemy
had caught sight of them.

Long had Curling Smoke crouched low in his cranny in the cliff-side. His
gaze had roved unceasingly over the Plain of Ash. So vigilant was he
that he was sure that none could possibly have approached the Wizard’s
Cave without being seen by him from his hiding-place. Nevertheless, hour
had dragged slowly after hour, and still the one for whom he waited did
not appear.

The giant’s eyeballs ached, and grew dim at length from his steadfast
watching. Had it not been for his keen desire to satisfy his own ancient
grudge against the good fairies of the Fire, he would have broken his
promise to the Wizard, and careless as to whether or not the Prince went
by, he would have lain down to rest.

He wondered greatly at the delay, for, long since, Black Shadow had told
him that the stranger was already within the Elf’s dwelling in the
Borderland. If this were true, he should have reached the Cave by now.
Curling Smoke could not imagine what this important matter could be
which could detain the Prince so long, yet in spite of his weariness, he
continued to look away in the direction of the Elf’s house.

Growing more and more restless and impatient, he finally rose a little
in his place of concealment and thrust out his head far enough to see
not only the expanse of the Plain and the path up the cliff-side, but
the entrance to the Cave of Darkness as well. What was his astonishment
to see two figures standing before it—one of them the grey-robed Shadow
Witch, whom he knew well, the other a stranger, and clad in those ruddy
garments by which Black Shadow had declared he might recognize Prince
Ember. He could scarcely believe it to be possible that the Shadow Witch
had escaped from her brother—that the Prince had crossed the Plain under
his very eyes unseen. Yet there they were, almost in his grasp. Eager to
snatch at them both, he was about to emerge from his hiding-place,
when, to his discomfiture, they both vanished suddenly from his sight.

That they had gone back into the cavern he did not believe to be
possible. Moreover their faces had been set toward the Plain. There
could be no doubt that they had made themselves invisible, and were now
on their way down the cliff.

Unseen though they were, he knew how he could entrap them, and hold them
in his power. Determined to do this, he wound his form stealthily
upward, and from his right hand he cast forth huge plumes and columns of
smoke, which began to overspread the sky, and traveling swiftly, came on
and on as his hand directed them, until they hung poised far above the
heads of the unsuspecting Prince and his companion.

From his left hand long wreaths and streamers of smoke went out across
the ground, creeping along fast and silently, veiling it so that none
could see where his own feet trod.

Closer and closer from behind these, great smoke walls drew in, but the
faces of the two were set steadily toward the Land of Shadows, and they
knew naught of the danger which was so rapidly overtaking them.

Then, suddenly, by the enchanter’s power, a smoke wall, dense and
impenetrable, fell from above directly before the travelers, setting a
barrier between them and the land to which they were bound. All at once
they found themselves in a vast chamber, hemmed in on every hand by the
encompassing smoke.

The Shadow Witch was first to awaken to their peril. Casting her eyes
downward by chance, she all at once became aware of a faint veil of
smoke that was creeping round about her feet. Well did she know by that
sign who was near. She cast her eyes hurriedly on all sides, and saw
with alarm that the smoke was drawing in upon them from every quarter.

She caught Prince Ember’s arm, whispering anxiously, “Behold, my Prince,
behold the smoke fog! This is the work of the powerful magician, Curling
Smoke. We are entrapped.” At that same moment the smoke dropped down in
front of them, making complete the walls of the vast chamber in which
they stood imprisoned.

Prince Ember, beholding, was motionless with dismay. Flashing back to
his mind came the warning of his good friend the Elf. “Beware of
Curling Smoke,” he had said. “None more wicked and dreadful than he
inhabits the lands through which you must pass.”

How or when the giant had discovered the presence of himself and the
Shadow Witch, the Prince could not guess, unless it had been in that one
unguarded moment before the Cave, but now he was upon them with his
enchantments, and he might be able to overpower them both, armed though
they were with the Cloak of Ash and the Sword of Fire. In spite of his
great courage, Prince Ember’s heart sank low in his breast before this
fresh danger to his beloved Shadow Witch. Thinking intently of how best
to act against this new foe, he stood silent.

Again the Shadow Witch whispered low: “See! Yonder from out the fog he
comes, with his veils trailing from his arm—the Veil that Chokes—the
Veil that Blinds! He has discovered us, and means to destroy us!”

Prince Ember cast his arm about her and pressed her dear head
protectingly to his breast. Spurred on by his love for her his courage
mounted high. Looking to where she directed his gaze, he, too, saw,
looming out of the murky clouds, a great shape, fierce and terrible—the
giant, Curling Smoke.

From his huge arms hung the veils of which the Shadow Witch had spoken,
held always ready to use against any who provoked his wrath. He stood
still, at some distance from them, and searched the dim spaces about him
with piercing eyes, but seemed not to find the ones he sought.

“He does not see us, dearest,” spoke the Prince, under his breath. “The
Cloak conceals us, as the Elf promised that it would.”

“True,” answered the Shadow Witch, “but before we escape this giant we
must do battle with him. I know well his ways, and I doubt not that he
has joined himself to my brother for our destruction.”

“I have a weapon which has not yet failed me,” the Prince assured her
bravely. “With it I will meet him, and by using it valiantly shall hope
to overcome him and deliver you.” He was about to draw the Sword of
Fire, but the Shadow Witch prevented him.

“Not yet, not yet,” she besought him. “Fully do I trust the marvelous
power of your Sword, and it will be potent here, I doubt not, if the
moment of its using be right, but I have heard that Curling Smoke
cannot be vanquished in his smoke chamber until he towers within it to
his fullest height. This I believe I have the power to make him do, and
when he has done so, I am sure you will not strike in vain. Till then
let your Sword rest quiet in its sheath, but keep your hand upon its
hilt, and when I give the word, draw it at once and strike quickly.”

“It shall be as you say,” the Prince promised her, looking into her
uplifted face with tender love.

While they had said these things, Curling Smoke had remained where he
was, waiting, as if in the hope that he might make visible, by his mere
gazing, those whom he had entrapped. Presently they heard his voice
crying aloud through the fog, “Let those beware who defy Curling Smoke.
Though they be invisible, they shall yet feel his power.”

Beneath the Cloak of Ash, the Shadow Witch raised her grey sleeves and
waved them toward Curling Smoke. Prince Ember, watching to see what she
was about to do, saw a creature, as if in answer to the giant’s cry,
take shape from among the smoke wreaths that lay along the ground and
begin to creep, half hidden by them, toward the giant.

Curling Smoke suddenly beheld it also, beheld it with curiosity and
astonishment, for this was neither the Prince nor the Shadow Witch, both
of whom he believed to be bound by his enchantment, but a stranger. How
he had entered the smoke chamber, he did not know. Remaining, poised
watchfully where he was, he kept his glittering eyes upon it, till it
should draw nearer.

Before it reached him it began to rise, to grow larger as it rose, and
he presently saw that it was a giant like himself, though smaller and
less terrible. His head was bent and his face hidden.

Curling Smoke gazed upon the newcomer with indignation. “Who are you,
who dare to venture unasked within the bounds that I have set?” he
demanded imperiously.

The stranger made no answer, but ceasing to mount, stood poised directly
in front of him, with his face still concealed.

“Know you not that I am the Master Magician and have power to destroy
you instantly?” shouted Curling Smoke, lifting his huge hand in menace.

Still the creature did not reply.

Instantly Curling Smoke unloosed his terrible Veil that Chokes, and
flung it at him. It smote against the drooped head of the unknown, but
instead of suffocating him, as Curling Smoke had intended that it
should, it floated harmlessly back again and hung itself about the
enchanter’s arm.

Foiled though he had been in his first attempt, Curling Smoke was not
discomfited. He shook free his Veil that Blinds. “This—this shall
overcome you,” he cried boastfully. “Now shall you learn how great is
the power of the Magician of Veils.” With skilful hands he so wielded
it, that it struck full in the eyes of the intruder, even though his
head was still bent low. Yet in spite of this, the second veil drifted
back defeated to its place beside the Veil that Chokes.

Wrathful and puzzled because his veils had proved themselves thus
powerless against this silent and seemingly defenceless stranger,
Curling Smoke thrust out his powerful arms to wind his adversary round
and crush him, but the stranger melted from his coils, and stood beyond
his grasp unharmed as before.

Then he began again to mount. He reached the magician’s shoulders, and
shooting yet higher threw back his head.

Curling Smoke, looking upon him, saw to his amazement the face of Prince
Ember; a giant now in size, and grey-robed, but still Prince Ember. What
had become of the Shadow Witch, by what magic the Prince had become thus
transformed, the magician could not guess, nor did he care, provided he
but succeeded in conquering this hated visitant from the Land of Fire.

He regarded him in silence for a moment, pondering how he should
accomplish it. Here was his match in size; here was one against whom
his veils were powerless; here, too, was a creature who melted from his
grasp when he thought to seize and twist him. What, then, remained for
him to do? This only: to overtop him and smother him by casting himself
down upon him from above.

Immediately he began to send himself upward in rapidly rising spirals,
so that he might throw himself down upon the stranger with the greater
force, but as he mounted, the other ascended also, faster and faster,
higher and higher, always head and shoulders above Curling Smoke.

As Curling Smoke rose, he shouted threats and defiance, shaking his fist
at his rival and glaring up at him with malicious and baneful eyes. But
the other still maintained his strange silence and met his look
unmoved.

Prince Ember watching this phantom of himself from the shelter of the
Cloak of Ash, marvelled at the power of the Shadow Witch who, by her
magic, could so delude their foe. As he watched, he held himself in
readiness to draw his sword when his companion gave the word.

Still higher towered the phantom Prince, and after him sprang Curling
Smoke, wreathing his murky spirals upward, and crying out more and more
boisterously as he grew the more enraged by every vain effort to reach
and overleap him.

The two had almost reached the dome, and Prince Ember’s hand tightened
on his Sword, for he felt that the time to use it was near.

“Not yet, my Prince,” whispered the Shadow Witch. “Not yet.”

An arm’s length higher she sent her phantom, and made him pause. Seeing
this, sure now that his enemy could go no further, Curling Smoke shot up
with lightning swiftness and stood above him at last, stretched to his
full height, an immensely tall and straight and slender column, poised
on tiptoe to spring and overleap him. His voice rang out hoarsely. “Ah,
now you shall not escape me! At last your time has come!”

“Strike!” breathed the Shadow Witch to the waiting Prince. “Strike now!”

Swiftly Prince Ember threw back the Cloak of Ash. The Sword of Fire
glowed red as it swung through the air, and redder still as it struck
the limbs of Curling Smoke and clove them. As the strange heat of that
fairy Sword rushed through his giant frame, Curling Smoke became as
naught. His limbs were seized with faintness and trembling. The phantom
Prince vanished suddenly from before him, and his own Veil that Blinds
rose in darkening folds across his eyes. The Veil that Chokes swept
across his mouth, and his turbulent voice was stilled. He began to
shrink upward, to waver and fade, and presently he drifted helplessly
into the great smoke dome and was swallowed up in it.

Then, also, before the mighty heat that flowed from the Sword of Fire,
the walls and dome of the vast smoke chamber, and the smoke wreaths upon
the ground, were themselves dissolved, and Prince Ember and the Shadow
Witch stood free in the Plain of Ash.

“Ah, my brave Prince! By your Sword of Fire, how gloriously you have
conquered!” exclaimed the Shadow Witch, with sparkling eyes.

“Forget not the magic of my dear Lady of the Shadows,” Prince Ember
tenderly reminded her, “for without its aid this victory could scarcely
have been won.”

The Shadow Witch laughed sweetly. “On, on together, then,” she cried.



                            [Illustration]

                             CHAPTER XIII


With the perils of the Cave of Darkness left behind, with Curling Smoke
vanquished and driven far off, the Shadow Witch was happy; and in her
presence Prince Ember gave no thought for the moment to any further
danger that might beset them.

Danger was not far distant. In the spot that he had chosen, the Ash
Goblin worked fast and diligently upon the snare with which he meant to
entrap Prince Ember, hoping that he might be able to complete it before
the Prince arrived.

He could plainly see the Elf’s house from where he labored. He believed
the Prince to be still within its walls, and he was sure that none as
yet had crossed its threshold. With his twisted hands he took from the
long bag hidden beneath his cloak the evil ash, of which alone his snare
could be made, and sifted it carefully over the ground. Meanwhile he
repeated the words of enchantment written in his Book of Craft, which he
believed would make certain the capture of Prince Ember, but he took
good care to repeat them silently, lest any, coming upon him unawares,
should overhear them and learn his secret. As the ash fell to the ground
from his fingers, it spread and ran together to form a thin and
web-like film, leaving no spot uncovered.

So treacherous was this snare, that if one but stepped upon its borders,
he would become unable to release his feet from it and would be drawn
helplessly to its centre. There the web would rise upon him from all
sides with lightning swiftness to enmesh him and draw him down till he
was fast bound in its folds, and there he must perish in his vain
efforts to escape. This was the trap that the Ash Goblin was cunningly
and silently preparing for Prince Ember, keeping watch in the meanwhile
for him to approach. He kept himself close to the ground, concealed by
the ashes around him, so like they were in color to his dingy robe, and
the cap that covered his matted grizzled hair. Occasionally he chuckled
to himself at the thought of the discomfiture which lay in store for
Curling Smoke, that boastful giant, whom he believed to be lying in wait
for the Prince near to the Wizard’s Cave. Such confidence had the Ash
Goblin in his snare that never for an instant did he believe that the
Prince could escape it and come within reach of the giant’s arms.

While he worked and exulted thus, he did not forget that in conquering
Prince Ember, he would pay off, also, his old grudge against the Shadow
Witch for her mockery of him.

The Shadow Witch, coming across the Plain of Ash with the Prince,
safe-sheltered by the Cloak of the good Elf, had been sure that they
were now safe from peril, when on a sudden it seemed as if a warning
hand were laid upon her. She stopped and looked around her, but saw
nothing.

Then, with piercing eyes, she scanned the Plain in front. At a
considerable distance from her, bent over the ash, she espied a figure
well-known to her—the Ash Goblin, intent upon some task. She suspected
danger, and caught at the Prince’s mantle, exclaiming beneath her
breath, “The Ash Goblin! See, how stealthily he creeps along! Never does
he venture so far from home unless he has evil plans afoot.”

Prince Ember had forgotten the Ash Goblin, had forgotten the words of
the Elf of the Borderland, but now they returned to him. “Beware of the
Ash Goblin! He is small of stature, but he cannot safely be despised,
for he is very cunning.” He followed the pointing finger of the Shadow
Witch, that he might behold this new enemy, but he strained his eyes in
vain.

“I see nothing but the grey Plain that lies between us and the Elf’s
dwelling,” he replied.

She laid her hand lightly upon his eyes for a moment, and by the magic
of her touch made his vision more keen. “Look now,” she urged,
withdrawing her hand, “and you will see.”

Prince Ember obeyed, and immediately he, too, beheld the ugly form of
the Ash Goblin bending over his snare. “Yes, there he is,” he said, “and
I remember now how earnestly the Elf of the Borderland bade me be on my
guard against his cunning.”

“Ah, my Prince,” the Shadow Witch responded, “you may well be on your
guard. Though he knows the weakness of his body too well to dare to
attack an enemy in fair and open fight, he is powerful in such craft as
he can carry out in secret. Whether or not he is preparing a trap for
us, I cannot tell. One thing is certain, we cannot choose but pass over
the place where he is at work.”

“Whatever may lie in wait for us there, my dear Shadow Witch,” Prince
Ember assured her, “we will meet it unafraid.”

They went directly toward their foe. Nowhere did they see anything that
spoke of danger until they were but a stone’s throw from where the Ash
Goblin knelt. There they stood still to scan his work, and beheld a
delicate mesh, so thin and fine that it was well-nigh invisible,
stretching away to right and left of him and in front of him.

The Shadow Witch, seeing, shrank back aghast. “It is the cunning web of
the Ash Goblin!” she breathed. “None escapes destruction who sets foot
within its bounds.”

Before the Prince could answer, the Ash Goblin rose. He had put the
final touch to his work. The last handful of his ash had been strewn,
the last word of his spell had been pronounced, and weary with long
bending over his work, he drew himself up slowly.

“A goodly snare, a goodly snare,” they heard him mutter to himself.
“Never yet has it failed me—no, nor ever shall, so long as I hold the
secret of my evil ash, so long as I remember the words of my ancient
spell.”

He gloated over it for a moment in silence, and then continued: “To this
snare the feet of Prince Ember must come. When he treads so much as its
border he is lost, and when he is lost, the impudent Shadow Witch in
her dungeon may await her brother’s pleasure for her deliverance. Let
her learn in good time, that it is the Ash Goblin, the Ash Goblin whom
she has so often mocked, who has helped to keep her there.” He wagged
his head exultantly, and sank down again to conceal himself in the
ashes, and there await unseen the coming of the Prince.

The Shadow Witch heard his words, and her cheek grew pale as ivory. She
pressed her hands close together and looked into Prince Ember’s face,
her eyes full of pain. “Alas! my Prince,” she whispered, “it grieves me
that you should encounter so many perils for my sake! And here—ah, here,
I am afraid that all your wondrous fairy power cannot suffice to break
this wicked snare that has been set for you.”

Prince Ember smiled. “Grieve not so, my Shadow Witch,” he consoled her.
“There is no danger that I would not meet gladly for your sake. Think
not that I cannot here match magic with magic, and conquer, for there is
no evil enchantment but must yield before the power of the good fairies
of the Fire.”

With quiet confidence he left the shelter of the Cloak of Ash, and in
his hand was his fairy sword. It shone with a red glory.

The Ash Goblin, crouching upon the ground, keeping his eyes fixed upon
the Elf’s threshold, had heard no syllable that had been spoken, nor
knew that anyone was near.

But now his staring eyes suddenly beheld the place about him suffused
with scarlet light. He leapt to his feet, turning in swift amaze to
learn from whence it came, and saw Prince Ember standing, with Sword
extended like a bar of fire across his snare. From it streamed that
heat, potent and overmastering, wherein its magic dwelt.

“Let the snare of the Ash Goblin perish before the power of the Sword of
Fire!” exclaimed the Prince, and as he uttered the words the Ash Goblin
saw the web that he had been at such pains to prepare, begin to shrivel
and shrink away, and presently it had vanished completely from the
surface of the Plain.

A frenzied shriek burst from the Ash Goblin at the sight of his work
destroyed before his very eyes and by the one for whom the snare had
been laid. Coward though he was, he would have rushed upon the Prince to
attack him with all his puny strength, had not the heat which streamed
from the Sword of Fire made his limbs powerless to stir from the spot
where he lay hid, had not the glow which surrounded him become so
intense that he was forced to bury his head in his cloak, lest his eyes
should be blinded by it.

Crouching there, wrapped to the very crown of his head in his dingy
cloak, he heard again the voice of Prince Ember.

“Depart quickly,” commanded the Prince, “lest you be consumed in like
manner as your evil snare.”

Then the Ash Goblin rose and fled away in terror from the place where he
had hoped to triumph, fled on and on, until he came to the threshold of
his own hut. In desperate haste he undid the door, and rushing in,
closed and barred it fast, to shut out the spell of the conquering
Sword.



                            [Illustration]

                              CHAPTER XIV


While Prince Ember had passed from place to place, everywhere meeting
and conquering the perils that beset him and his companion, the Wind in
the Chimney had not been unmindful of his promise to Black Shadow. On
the contrary, he was only too willing to help the Wizard.

As soon as the Wizard’s messenger had departed from him, he despatched a
half dozen of his keenest and most agile Breezes to the Chimney Mouth to
spy upon the Elf’s house from thence, and bring him word at once the
moment the Prince was seen to cross its threshold.

During the time, therefore, that the Imps had been keeping guard at the
entrance to the Wizard’s cavern, the Breezes, on their part, had been
industriously looking across the Plain from the Chimney Mouth, but with
no better fortune in the one case than in the other.

Once, it is true, they, like the Ash Goblin, had espied the Elf’s door
open slowly and remain so for a moment, and they had waited eagerly for
the Prince to come forth, but no one had appeared, and presently the
door had closed again and had remained fast shut ever since.

The Wind, sitting on his rough seat in the Chimney, began to chafe at
the delay. He did not overlook the fact that the Breezes were merry
fellows, and that, though they took no liberties while they were under
his eye, and talked only in whispers among themselves when they perched
in the Chimney nooks, they had only to be out of his sight to begin to
whisk gaily about and dance and sing in the liveliest possible manner,
so as to enjoy their freedom to the utmost.

He began to believe that even on this occasion, in spite of the
strictness of his commands, they were amusing themselves after their
usual fashion, and, becoming more and more careless and inattentive to
their duty, had allowed Prince Ember to go on his way unobserved.

Leaning forward in his seat, he called down to them gruffly, demanding
to know whether any sign had yet been seen of the stranger prince. When
he received their answer, he was more than ever convinced of their
negligence and gave orders that one of their number should go out and
scour the Plain, to discover whether the Prince was anywhere about. But
the one who had been sent returned to say that there was nothing to be
seen but the yellow fog of Curling Smoke.

The Wind shrugged his great shoulders contemptuously. “The affairs of
Curling Smoke do not interest me,” he declared.

For a little longer he waited and then began to stir about impatiently
upon his Chimney seat.

“Go out and search the Plain more carefully than was done by your
fellow,” he shouted to another of the Breezes. “It is quite impossible
that the Prince should still be in the Elf’s house.”

Swift to obey his master, the second Breeze went forth, yet came back
in a little while, declaring that he had seen no one but the Ash Goblin,
bending over the ground as though intent upon some task.

“Bah!” exclaimed the Wind. “Why do you come to me with such news as
that? What difference can it make to me what such a wretched creature as
the Ash Goblin is doing? Let him amuse himself with his trifles as he
pleases.”

Thus rebuffed, his servant retreated shamefacedly to his post, and again
the Wind waited.

Such a great length of time had passed since they had taken up their
vigil at the Chimney Mouth, that the Breezes themselves were beginning
to be uneasy, and to suspect that by means of some enchantment the
Prince had actually escaped them.

Then they bethought them of the moment when the Elf’s door had been
seen to open and shut without anyone coming out of it, and they were
troubled, and wondered whether they should, perhaps, have made the
matter known to their master at the time.

Finally, one of their number, bolder than the rest, summoned up his
courage and went and told the Wind of it.

“What!” shrieked the Wind, rising in a tempest of rage. “Can it be that
you saw anything so important as this and brought me no word of it?
Magic has been at work! This Prince has without doubt escaped me. Even
at this instant he may be upon the Plain under the very eyes of my
watchers!”

Hurling the messenger from him, the Wind rushed down to the Chimney
Mouth. He buffeted to right and left the Breezes who stood there, and
whirled out upon the Plain to see for himself whether or not what he
suspected was true.

It so happened that Prince Ember and the Shadow Witch were crossing the
Plain directly in front of the Chimney Mouth at that instant.

Then what the Elf of the Borderland had feared immediately came true.
The keen eyes of the Wind pierced the spell of the Weaver elf. His rough
blasts shattered it. Snatching the fairy Cloak from the shoulders of the
travelers, he beat it quickly back into the loose ashes of which it had
been woven, and drove them off and away into the wide spaces of the
Borderland, there to settle down at last wherever they would.

Thus were Prince Ember and the Shadow Witch revealed to the gaze of
their most powerful enemy.

The Prince needed none to tell him who this new foe was, nor did he
quail at sight of him, though he knew that he might well fear for his
companion and himself. Quickly he thrust the Shadow Witch behind him,
and with his Sword of Fire in his hand awaited his coming.

With a loud howl the Wind was upon them. Against this terrific onset the
Prince held firm, and as the Wind dashed himself upon the Sword,
thinking to wrest that from him, also, it leapt to life, a broad and
beauteous sheet of scarlet flame, that rose in an ascending barrier high
and yet higher at every buffet that it sustained. The more the Wind
flung himself upon it in fury, the greater it waxed in power and
brilliance, the stronger the heat that flowed from it in mighty waves.

Cowed by it, the Wind retreated for a moment, but seeing that the flame
waned when he did so, he took fresh courage and raged against it once
more. Yet quite in vain. Wielding his Sword with steady hand, protected
by its wall of leaping fire, its rampart of glowing heat, the Prince met
him at every turn dauntless and unharmed.

Still farther back stood the Shadow Witch, her tall form swaying in the
blasts of the Wind. At his advance her black hair streamed behind her
like a cloud; her grey garments and long grey sleeves, illumined by the
red glory of the Sword, billowed round her like floating banners.
Through the fierceness of the fight her voice was heard cheering the
Prince sweetly, that his courage might not fail.

So the battle raged: on the one side with unavailing fury, wild shouts,
insolent boasting, and slowly wasting strength; on the other hand with
steadfast courage, quietness and undimmed confidence.

For long the Wind could not believe it possible that he would be
vanquished, but gradually he was convinced that the foe whom he had
despised was invincible. Humiliated and sullen, he determined to give up
the losing fight. With one last shriek of rage and discomfiture, that
rang out to the farthest confines of the Plain and echoed across the
Borderland, he fled back in haste to the Chimney, and hurled himself
into its depths.

Prince Ember put up his Sword. The Shadow Witch stole to his side to
thank him for this new deliverance, but her exceeding gratitude made
her dumb. She could only lay her hands in his, and look into his beloved
face in silence.

Knowing what was in her heart, Prince Ember bent to her. “Dear Lady of
the Shadows,” he said, “to serve you is my highest joy. And now there is
no other enemy left for us to dread. I have but to lead you home.”



                            [Illustration]

                              CHAPTER XV


With what happiness Prince Ember and the Shadow Witch resumed their
journey! All the way before them seemed a way of brightness, though it
led across a Plain as grey and desolate as it had been before; but they
knew that no perils lay in wait for them, and that every step led them
safely on.

While the Shadow Witch talked gaily with the Prince, she turned to him a
face as radiant as though a light shone through it from within. Ever and
again her laughter rang out low and clear, not the echoing, mocking
laughter, known so well to the evil fairies of that land, but a laugh of
rippling music, as if all sweet sounds, all gentle whisperings of the
fire were caught up and gathered into it. The Prince listened to it with
keen delight. Of all the notes of gladness that he had ever heard, it
was to him the loveliest; and she herself, gliding tall and beautiful
beside him, he could never tire of gazing upon.

They came at last to the Land of Shadows. Its pale trees and gardens lay
before them, and in the distance they saw the Palace of Shadows lifting
its grey towers against the sky.

They had spoken less and less frequently as they drew near it, and the
laughter of the Shadow Witch had ceased, for her heart had grown heavy,
and her mind was filled with troubled thoughts. Soon Prince Ember would
leave her to return to his own home in that fair land which she so much
longed to behold. He had left it to come to her deliverance, and at
first sight of him she had known that her heart’s love could never be
given to anyone but him. That he loved her in return, she did not doubt.
His eyes had said it, the tones of his voice had revealed it a hundred
times. Had he not called her more than once his “dear Shadow Witch,” and
given himself to danger for her sake again and again?

Yet he said no word of taking her home with him—of making her his bride;
and so her eyes were sad, and her heart was full of pain at the thought
of the parting which was now so near at hand. She did not dare to speak,
lest her grief should break forth uncontrolled.

Who was she, she told herself, the mischievous Shadow Witch, a creature
of grey magic, to be the bride of such a one as this bright, this
glorious Prince, whose magic was all noble, whose land was all joy and
brightness? In her mind she had no picture of that land. She had seen
only Prince Radiance and his White Flame and this Prince Ember, yet she
could guess from these, its bright inhabitants, how marvelous the Land
of Fire must be.

She bowed her head humbly as she thought of it. Its greatest glory, its
noblest Prince could never be for her but she was determined that when
he had gone from her, she would forsake her own home and would seek the
confines at least of the Land of Fire, and there live in a little of its
brightness—there learn what she could of its good magic. This much she
must do, for her old life, her old ways, were now more than ever
intolerable to her.

Prince Ember, seeing her silent, guessed nothing of her thoughts. To him
she was most dear and beautiful, the only one whom he could ever wish to
win.

They had reached the foot of her garden, and the Prince stood still. The
Shadow Witch paused also, and waited in silence.

Prince Ember took her hand and kissed it. “Lady of the Shadows,” he
said, “we have come at last to your domain in safety.”

The Shadow Witch caught her breath painfully, for she felt that the
moment of farewell had come. It was as if she could not bear it.

The Prince drew yet nearer. “Dear Shadow Witch,” he whispered, “I
cannot leave you, so do I love you, yet I cannot stay with you here in
this grey land. Go with me, then, to my own bright country. Go with me,
there to be my bride and princess.”

No answering words rose to the lips of the Shadow Witch. Her face was
turned away, and her eyes hidden. But a moment since she had been silent
because of overmastering sadness. Now, for very joy, she was dumb. In
her humility she dared not grasp at once at the happiness held out to
her.

The Prince leaned to her in fear, lest he should have been mistaken,
lest perhaps she did not love him as he had hoped and believed. “Speak,”
he besought her. “Ah, speak, my dearest. How can I go without you? How
can I leave you in this land—a land too sad and grey for such a one as
you? All the brightness of my own country is without meaning for me
henceforth, if I have not you to share it with me as my heart’s true
love.”

Wooed thus, the Shadow Witch hesitated no longer. She turned to him in a
flood of love and longing. She stretched her hands to him, trembling
with the fulness of her joy, and her voice came again. “Prince of my
heart,” she murmured softly. “Most dear and glorious Prince, where could
my home be ever, if not with you?”

Prince Ember caught her to his heart, and silence fell once more between
them.

For a little while they tarried in the borders of the garden, clinging
to each other in their first great joy, and the dim alleys and dusky
trees took on a brightness till now unknown to them from these two
figures radiant with a pure and innocent love.

At last the Shadow Witch remembered all that she must leave behind.
“Listen,” she said, and her voice was very gentle, “I have been long
gone, and my servants still wait for their mistress. They love me and
are faithful. They will mourn for me when I have left them—Creeping
Shadow most of all. I must bid them farewell and tell them why it is
that I depart from them to return no more.”

So they left the confines of the garden and turned their steps toward
the Palace of Shadows. They had not yet reached it, when its mistress
saw a pale figure approaching through the tall shrubs that lined their
way.

It was Creeping Shadow, stealing sadly along the paths once dear to her
mistress, thinking of Prince Ember who had promised succor, a promise
which she had begun to fear he had not been able to keep. “Alas! what
hope could there be after all?” she thought, “that this Prince should be
able, single-handed, to meet and conquer such powerful enemies as the
Wizard, and his many evil friends?” She shook her head doubtfully, yet
even as she did so she lifted her eyes to look once more along the
familiar path by which she had hoped her mistress might return.

“See,” exclaimed the Shadow Witch to her lover. “She comes, my good and
faithful servant, still seeking, still hoping!”

At that moment Creeping Shadow saw her and gave a loud cry that rang
through the spaces and reached even to the palace halls. She rushed to
throw herself at the feet of her mistress, to clasp her knees in an
ecstasy of thankfulness and rejoicing. “Mistress, dear mistress!” she
exclaimed, “At last, at last, you are here!”

And now from the palace doors and from everywhere, the Shadows came
gliding swiftly, to burst into exclamations of joy when they saw, in
their turn, who it was that had come.

Among them came the traitor, Black Shadow, hastening to learn whether
what she had believed to be impossible, had, in spite of her treachery,
been brought to pass. She saw Prince Ember and her mistress surrounded
by the welcoming Shadows, saw that her plots had been in vain.

She would have turned at once to flee to the Wizard, to make known to
him what had happened, had she not been arrested by the voice of her
mistress speaking strange words, words such as she had never thought to
hear.

“I have come to show you that I am set free,” said the Shadow Witch,
“have come, also, to bid you, my loyal servants, farewell.”

A murmur of astonishment went up from the listening Shadows. What could
such words mean?

The Shadow Witch continued. “I have found light and joy and true
happiness by the side of this good Prince, and I can no longer pass my
days in this grey land of mine with its grey magic.” She would have
spoken further, but a burst of sorrow interrupted her. With one accord
her servants swayed mournfully, and with sobs and cries, cast themselves
at her feet.

She looked upon them with love and compassion. What could she do for
them, these faithful friends and servants, whom she must leave if she
followed her dear Prince? Go she must, but what could she say to comfort
them? A thrill of pain went through her heart, tempering her exceeding
joy in her new-found happiness.

Prince Ember came to her help. “The light and gladness of the Land of
Fire is forbidden to none who are true and faithful,” he proclaimed.
“Let all, then, who love their mistress, follow her to her new home, if
it is their wish.”

At these words, so comfort-bringing, the Shadow Witch turned upon her
Prince a glance of tenderest gratitude. The Shadows, hearing them, were
lifted at once from deep grief to boundless rejoicing. They rose to
their feet, their grey robes all a-flutter. “Ah, generous Prince,” they
cried, “we follow, follow—happy indeed to be her faithful servants
still.”

All but Black Shadow. She alone had given no cry of grief, she alone had
shown no sign of joy. She had prostrated herself with the rest at the
feet of the Shadow Witch, and had bowed her head, but merely to conceal
the anger which she felt at the sight of her mistress safe returned. No
sound passed her lips now. She was glad to hear of the coming departure,
but that gladness, also, she would restrain. Until her mistress had
gone, she would keep her own counsel, hide her own purposes, so that she
might fulfil them in her own time and in her own way.

She had not long to wait, for Prince Ember’s voice, clear and gracious,
rose once more. “Let us not tarry. My bright kingdom awaits its Prince,
who has been long absent. Its good fairies will rejoice to welcome not
him alone, but his bride and her devoted followers.”

So saying he took the hand of the Shadow Witch, and together they left
the Garden of Shadows, and set out for the Land of Fire. Behind them
trooped the Shadows, eager to behold for themselves that beauteous
fairyland which was henceforth to be their home. But Black Shadow was
not among them. As soon as Prince Ember had ceased to speak, she had
slipped quietly away.

The Shadow Witch had noticed her absence and presently, turning to see
what had become of her, saw a dark figure hurrying toward the Wizard’s
Cave. It was Black Shadow. A smile of understanding dawned upon the face
of the Shadow Witch. She said no word, but she guessed the treacherous
part that her servant had already played, and what she now meant to do.
“Let her go her way,” she thought. “She can harm us no more.”

Meanwhile Prince Ember was thinking of his great debt to the Elf. It was
in his mind to stop at his dwelling, as they passed through the
Borderland, and thank him for the service which the Cloak of Ash had
rendered. But he had no need, for the Elf, espying the travelers from
afar, came to meet them. He gave them warm greeting and listened
intently while Prince Ember told him all that had befallen them and
whither they now were bound.

“Alas, for your marvelous Cloak!” the Prince said regretfully in
closing. “When the Wind tore it from me he resolved it to ashes and
scattered it far and wide.”

The Elf smiled. “That does not surprise me. You know that I told you
something of what might come to pass. Forget not, however, that the
secret of its weaving still dwells with the elves of the Borderland, who
will never refuse to provide another if need arises.”

He stretched his pudgy hand to the Shadow Witch, who caught it
gratefully in both her own. “Ah, good and kind friend!” she cried, “What
do I not owe to your faithful friendship!”

“As to that,” responded the Elf heartily, looking into her lovely face,
“I am already well rewarded by seeing you restored to liberty, and in
knowing of the happiness which is to be yours.”

Then their farewells were spoken, and the Elf stood watching them till
they vanished from his sight.

In the meantime, Black Shadow had reached the Cave of Darkness, and
there she found the Imps still at the entrance. They had awakened and
were now rubbing their eyes confusedly and whispering to each other
their fears concerning what might have happened while they had slept.

“Little need have you now to guard this Cave mouth,” Black Shadow flung
at them as she passed. “The Prince, whose entrance it was your duty to
prevent, has long since come and gone, taking with him the Shadow
Witch.”

She did not stay to reply to their frightened and excited questions, but
sped straight to the Cave Hall.

There she found the Wizard sitting upright in his chair, though he
looked pale and exhausted. He was surrounded by the Imps who had been
imprisoned in the vaulted chamber, and who, when the Shadow Witch had
reached her own land and the spell of the Sword of Fire had been lifted,
had heard their master’s voice calling to them for help. They had come
in trembling haste, and found him limp and prostrate on the floor, but
with their help, he had at last been enabled to rise slowly and go to
his accustomed seat.

“Sir Wizard!” cried Black Shadow, addressing him without ceremony, “the
stranger prince has everywhere prevailed! Curling Smoke is scattered!
The Ash Goblin is defeated! The Wind in the Chimney has been put to
naught! And now, Prince Ember has departed to the Land of Fire, taking
with him your sister to make her his bride. With her went all her
servants, the Shadows.”

“Let them go,” snarled the Wizard, scowling fiercely upon her. “I care
not what becomes of them, so that they return no more to trouble me.”

“And I,” continued Black Shadow, “have come to say that I mean to take
your sister’s domain for myself, and choose companions to occupy it with
me who will obey my commands.”

“Do what you will,” he retorted impatiently, “so that you, too, go from
me, and leave me in peace.”

Black Shadow needed no second bidding, but left the Wizard there, with
his Imps clustered about him, while she departed in haste to carry out
her long cherished plans.



                            [Illustration]

                              CHAPTER XVI


In King Red Flame’s garden it was brilliant noonday. The trees waved
their branches to a cloudless sky, the flowers lifted their beauteous
heads in a clear and golden light. Through the blossoming shrubs, the
towers and walls of the Palace of Burning Coals glistened in fullest
splendor. Prince Ember and the Shadow Witch approaching, beheld them
shining as if in welcome. The band of Shadows caught their breath in
wonder at the glorious sight.

Within the palace sat King Red Flame on his jeweled throne, listening
to his daughter, the Princess, as she sang the songs he loved. Prince
Radiance, close beside her, listened also. He could never tire of that
exquisite voice, which, from the first hour that he had heard it, had
enchanted his ear, and enchained his heart. The Fire Fairies, busy in
palace and garden, paused now and then to catch the floating strains,
for their Princess was unspeakably dear to them, and her singing stirred
them always to deep delight. Rushing Flame, the King’s messenger, poised
alertly at the palace gate in readiness to leap forth on any errand for
his master, strained his ear, that he, too, might miss no note of her
song.

Suddenly, from below the palace windows, the sound of many feet was
heard, and the air was rent by shouts of welcome.

The Princess broke off her song. With one accord the royal company
started to their feet, certain that naught but the return of Prince
Ember could cause so great a tumult. At that very instant the scarlet
figure of Rushing Flame appeared before them, proclaiming, “Your Majesty
the King, Prince Ember has returned.”

While he was yet speaking, Prince Ember and the Shadow Witch entered the
palace hall. Close after them glided the band of Shadows, and
accompanying them came the Wise One, kind old Grey Smoke and a multitude
of Fire Fairies, who had come quickly together from everywhere, eager to
have a part in greeting the unknown guests, and to hear the adventures
of the brave young Prince.

With a lover’s pride, Prince Ember led his beloved to the King. Never
had the Shadow Witch looked more beautiful. Her ebon hair fell like a
rich cloak over her grey robes; her cheek was mantled by a crimson
flush; her dark eyes gleamed with a soft radiance.

King Red Flame, won by the first glimpse of this lovely stranger, forgot
his state and went to meet her. Without waiting for his nephew to make
her known, he drew her to himself in cordial greeting. “Welcome fair
Princess of the Shadows,” he said, “and welcome, also, to your train.”
Then to his nephew he turned in deep affection. “Welcome, dear Ember,
thrice welcome. Long have we waited and anxiously hoped for your safe
return.”

“Welcome, welcome,” cried Prince Radiance heartily, coming to clasp
hands with the Prince and his companion in his turn. Right glad was he
to see his good friends once more.

The gentle Princess White Flame, thinking of what she must have endured,
took the Shadow Witch to her arms and kissed her as a sister might.

Then did the King demand to know the story of their adventures, and a
deep hush fell over the assemblage while Prince Ember related
everything, from first to last, that had befallen them. Of all who
listened with deep interest and earnest sympathy, only Prince Radiance
and Princess White Flame, who themselves had once journeyed in that
far-off land and had met its perils, could fully understand how great
the task of Prince Ember had been.

The Wise One, hearing how his own gifts and his advice concerning the
Elf of the Borderland had been the means of bringing them safely through
all the dangers that had threatened them, smiled and nodded his head
approvingly, as was his wont.

When, in conclusion, Prince Ember made known that he had won the love of
the Shadow Witch, and that she had consented to become his Princess,
King Red Flame was greatly pleased that the Prince had found so fair a
mate and gave command that the wedding should take place forthwith.

In haste, then, the wedding feast was prepared. Dame Grey Smoke herself
saw to it that it lacked no splendor that fairy hands or fairy skill
could devise. The Wise One gave sage advice and from his treasure chest
brought gifts, ancient and rare. The Fire Fairies vied with one
another in their loving task of making all things ready, and among them
moved the Shadows, their faces reflecting the joy of their mistress,
their hearts filled with wonder and delight at the beauty and goodness
of this new fairyland into which they had come to dwell. The Fire
Fairies showed them every kindness, so that they might feel at home in a
country where all things were strange to them.

So, in the Palace of Burning Coals, Prince Ember and the Shadow Witch
were married, and King Red Flame himself gave the bride away.

When the wedding feast with its splendors was ended, the Prince led his
bride home to his Palace of Good Cheer.

[Illustration: The Prince led his bride home to his Palace of Good
Cheer.]

His own fairies stood to welcome them. On the high golden gate that
overarched the entrance to his dominions three great marriage torches
were set, that lifted their quenchless flames upward with pure and
golden light.

As Prince Ember advanced with the Shadow Witch through that bright gate,
she became transformed, for all grey forsook her trailing robes forever
and left them robes of glory, robes of rose and amethyst and richest
scarlet in their changing hues. The garments of her attendant Shadows
changed, also, and became a soft reflection of the fuller loveliness of
her own.

They came on through the shining avenue, amid the welcoming shouts of
the Ember Fairies and reached the Palace of Good Cheer. From every
turret flaming banners floated, from every window ruddy light beamed
out.

At its wide open door Prince Ember bent and kissed his bride tenderly.
“Enter, dear Shadow Witch,” he whispered low. “Enter, and crown my life
with the priceless treasure of your love.”

Her face alight with happiness, she passed in with him. She had come at
last, with her beloved Prince, to the fairyland of good magic—to the
land of her heart’s desire.

[Illustration]



_Uniform with this Volume_

PRINCESS
WHITE-FLAME

By
GERTRUDE CROWNFIELD

Illustrated by
ANNE MERRIMAN PECK

E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY

[Illustration]



[Transcriber’s Note: The ad has been moved from the beginning of the
book to the end. The table below lists all corrections applied to the
original text.

p. 009: [normalized] the Chief Imp bore himself humbly to-day -> today
p. 049: [added closing quotes] with all her magic power gone?”
p. 106: [added period] Beware, therefore, of the Ash Goblin.
p. 175: sank down helpess -> helpless
p. 176: the Prince advanced rapidy -> rapidly
p. 229: Go with we, there to be my bride -> me
p. 237: [normalized] that beauteous fairy-land -> fairyland
p. 243: [normalized] it was brilliant noon-day -> noonday
p. 248: to become his Princess. King -> Princess, King
p. 253: “Enter, dear Shadow Witch,” he whisered low. -> whispered ]





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