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Somewhere in the shifting greyness, a patch of colour began faintly to glow, red and pink and blue merging into one another too fast for the eye to follow. Glimmering soft and warm on the cold mountain, it held Jane's gaze as hypnotically as a flame; then gradually it began to focus itself, and Jane blinked in disbelief as she realized that a form was taking shape around it. Not definite clear shape, but a suggestion, a hint of what might be seen with the right eyes....
The brightness grew more intense until suddenly it was all contained in a glowing rose-coloured stone set into a ring, and the ring on the finger of a slender figure standing before her, leaning a little as if resting on a stick. There was at first such brightness around the figure that Jane could not look directly at it; instead her eyes flickered down to the ground on which it stood, only to realize with a shock that no ground was there. The figure was floating before her, an isolate fragment of whatever world lay there behind the greyness. It was the delicate form of an old lady, she saw now, wearing a long light-coloured robe; the face was fine-boned, kindly yet arrogant, with clear blue eyes that shone strangely young in the old, old cobweb-lined face.
Jane had forgotten the others, forgotten the mountain and the rain, forgotten everything but the face that watched her and now, gently, smiled. But still the old lady did not speak.
Jane said huskily, "You are the Lady. Will's Lady."
The Lady inclined her head, a slow graceful nod. "And since you can see that much, I may speak to you, Jane Drew. It was intended, from the beginning, that you should carry the last message."
"Message?" Jane's voice came out ina whisper.
"Some things there are that may be communicated only between like and like," the sweet soft voice said from the mist. "It is the pattern of a child's game of dominoes. For you and I are much the same, Jane, Jana, Juno, Jane, in clear ways that separate us from all others concerned in this quest. And you and Will are alike in your youth and your vigour, neither of which I share."
The voice grew fainter, as if with a great weariness; then rallied, and the light glowed more brightly from the rose-coloured ring on the Lady's hand. She drew herself upright, and her robe shone clear white now, bright as a moon over the grey lake.
"Jane," she said.
"Madam?" Jane said at once, and without any self-consciousness she bowed her head and dipped one knee almost to kneeling, oblivious of her jeans and anorak, as if she were dropping a deep curtsey of respect, out of another age.
The Lady said clearly, "You must tell him that they must go to the Lost Land, in the moment when it shall show itself between the land and the sea. And a white bone will prevent them, and a flying may-tree will save them, and only the horn can stop the wheel. And in the glass tower among the seven trees, they will find the crystal sword of the Light."
Her voice wavered, ending in a gasp, as if clutching for some last strength.
Jane said, struggling to hold the words, struggling to hold her image of the Lady, "In the glass tower among the seven trees. And -- a white bone will prevent them, and a flying may-tree save them. And only the -- the horn will stop the wheel."
"Remember," the Lady said. Her white form was beginning to fade, and the glow dying in the rose of the ring. The voice grew softer, softer. "Remember, my daughter. And be brave, Jane. Be brave...brave...."
The sound died, the wind whirled; Jane stared desperately out into the grey mist, searching to see the clear blue eyes in the old, lined face as if only they could fix the words in her memory. But she was alone among the dark hills and the lake with the low clouds blowing, and in her ears only the wind and the last imagined thread of a dying voice. And, now, as if it had never left her consciousness from the first instant, there came instead the clear high echo-twined melody of Will's voice, that had seemed to her like the mountains singing.
Suddenly the singing broke off. Will's voice flung through the air in a hoarse, urgent shout. "Jane! Jane!" The echo followed it "...Jane!...Jane!..." like a whispered warning. In quick instinct Jane swung round towards the voice, but saw only the green slope of the hill.
Then she looked back at the lake, and found that in the brief moment of her turning, such horror had arisen before her that panic engulfed her like ice-cold water. She tried to scream, and brought out only a strangled croak.
Out of the dark water an immense neck rose, swaying before her, dripping, tipped by a small pointed head, open-mouthed, black-toothed. Two horn-like antennae moved sluggishly to and fro on the head, like the horns of a snail; a fringe like a mane began between them and ran down the whole length of the neck, bent to one side by the water that hung from it, dripping slimily into the lake. The neck rose higher and higher, huge, endless. Gazing in motionless terror Jane saw that it was everywhere a dark green, shot with a strange dull iridescence, except on the underside that faced her, a dead silvery-white like the belly of a fish. High over her head the creature towered and swayed, menacing; the air was filled with a stench of weed and marsh-gas and decaying things.
Jane's arms and legs would not move. She stood, staring. The great serpent lunged to and fro towards her, nearer, nearer, blindly searching. Its mouth hung open. Slime dripped from the black jaws. It swung close to her, reeking, dreadful, and seemed to sense her; the head drew back to strike.
Jane screamed, and closed her eyes.