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Maze of the Beast

The Belt around Lief's waist now has four gems. The next stone lies hidden in the underwater lair of the hideous and ferocious Glus. Already exhausted, pursued by the servants of the Shadow Lord, the three companions will need all their strength and courage to face the Maze of the Beast.

Lief broke in. "And it is you who are right, Dain. The Enemy's power was gained by sorcery. Ordinary strength, however determined, may undo some of his evil work, but can never defeat him for good."

Jasmine had been listening, looking from one speaker to another. Now she spoke.

"Ordinary strength may not defeat the Shadow Lord. But ordinary sense tells us how we must proceed from here. Plainly, we are about to travel into territory the Enemy is watching closely. There will be many eyes watching for the group they have been told about—a man, a boy—and a wild girl with a black bird."

She said the last words with a bitter smile.

Lief tried to interrupt, but she held up her hand to stop him. "We must separate, if we are not to be noticed," she said. "And since Kree and I are the ones who make our group obvious, we are the ones who must take another path."

She pulled on her pack. Kree flew to perch on her arm. Filli chattered fearfully.

"Jasmine, no!" Lief exclaimed.

"Do not leave us!" cried Dain at the same moment.

Jasmine turned to Barda. "I am right, am I not?" she demanded. "Tell them!"

The big man hesitated, but his grieved face showed that he knew her reasoning was sound.

She nodded briskly. "Then that is settled. All being well, we will meet on the coast, at the river's end."

With that, she lifted a hand in farewell and moved quickly off into the darkness. With a cry Lief started after her. But she did not answer his call, and he could not catch her. In moments she was just a flickering shadow among the trees. Then she was gone.