|Author||L. J. Smith|
|Published on|| 1994 (first published) |
2010 (republished as omnibus edition)
|Published by|| Pocket Books (1994 edition) |
Simon Pulse (2010 edition)
The Kill is the third installment of The Forbidden Game trilogy, first published in 1994 by L. J. Smith. The novel concludes the story of Jenny Thornton and her friends in their battle against Julian, an ancient creature who wants Jenny as his bride forever, and who has invited Jenny to come to his own world, the Shadow World, to rescue her captured boyfriend and cousin.
"It was Julian's last challenge before he disappeared into the Shadow World, taking Jenny Thornton's boyfriend Tom and her cousin Zach: 'If you want them, come on a treasure hunt. But remember: if you lose, there's the devil to pay.'
Jenny, Audrey, Michael and Dee had burned their bridges, leaving their families behind, to enter the Shadow World with a set of runes, magical letters that open the doors of hell. They're lost in an amusement park nightmare, at Julian's mercy as they look for Tom and Zach. Jenny's only clue is a gold coin, Julian's gift, and Julian himself, more beautiful, more seductive, more dangerous than ever. And determined to make her his bride . . ."
Jenny, Michael, Audrey and Dee, in order to participate in Julian's newest game, decide to secretly leave home, booking a flight to Pennsylvania to get to the home of Jenny's missing grandfather, Eric Evenson, hoping to find a way to enter the Shadow World through his notes and papers. The group manages to borrow money from their families without their knowledge and fly across the country, pretending to be students heading for a debate competition. However, they are all nervous over what they have done, worried about being discovered, although they all know they could never hope to reveal the truth to anyone.
While in flight, Jenny has a disturbing dream of being on an elevator with a diminutive person, concealed by a mask. The figure continually asks Jenny if it can "take [her]", and constantly appears when Jenny attempts to avoid or harm it. She awakens, frightened, and asks the others if they have had the same dream. Michael admits to having a dream, but one involving their lost friend Summer's disembodied head, propped on a table, still capable of speech and accusing the group of abandoning her.
In spite of this and some turbulence, which the group attributes to Julian watching them, they land safely in Pennsylvania and make their way to the home of Jenny's grandfather. However, while trying to break in, Audrey realizes the house has an alarm system. Initially disappointed, hope is restored when Jenny remembers Mr. Evenson's old housekeeper, Mrs. Durash. Going to the nearest dairy bar, they are able to contact Mrs. Durash's family, but are informed that she will not be able to open the Evenson house for them until seven in the evening.
With time to kill, Jenny decides for the group to go to Joyland Park, a local amusement park Jenny enjoyed as a child; a poster of it had also appeared in Jenny's dream, leading her to think it is a clue from Julian. The friends agree, deciding to have some time to relax and enjoy the rides and games, as well as get food for Michael. While on the bus to the park, Jenny briefly speculates that Summer might not actually be dead.
Arriving at the attraction, Jenny learns from two children about a treasure hunt around the park: those who find three gold coins anywhere in Joyland will be able to get a free ride on the new Treasure Island attraction when it opens, the gold doubloons necessary to pay the toll bridge to get to the new ride. Initially the group enjoys themselves, but peculiar occurrences begin to unnerve Jenny, reminding her of Julian's omniscience. The final straw for Jenny however is when, while playing a fishing game, her line draws up the promise ring Julian had given her, which Jenny had lost in the last game. Throwing the ring back into the water, the group leaves the park.
Walking between the WorldsEdit
They return to the Evenson house; Mrs. Durash, thinking Jenny's family has come by for a visit, opens the house for the group, although she mentions wanting to meet with Jenny and her parents the next day to catch up on old times. Jenny and the others enter Grandpa Evenson's basement and begin to search for a way to enter the Shadow World. Fortunately, the basement has been left intact, with all of Jenny's grandfather's notes, journals and protection talismans. Searching through the journals, the group takes turns looking for a way to cross the worlds, with Jenny finally locating the proper ritual.
Michael dictates from the journal what must be done: using Tom's Swiss Army knife, they must carve a special wheel, using the basement door to do so, and then carve in the correct order a series of runes along the wheel. Finally, to activate them and create a portal to the Shadow World, the runes must be stained with blood and their names recited. First, the circle and runes are sketched out with a pen, then Jenny carves each rune in order: Dagaz, the rune of change; Thurisaz, the rune of thorns; Gebo, the rune of death, sacrifices and gifts; Isa, the rune of ice; Kenaz, the rune of fire; Raidho, the rune of traveling, and finally Uruz, the rune of power. Accidentally cutting her finger with the knife, Jenny is able to stain the runes while Audrey and Dee finish carving them. Before finishing, the friends gather their supplies, having come well prepared for what they might have to face in the Shadow World.
Finally ready, Jenny speaks the names of the runes to activate their power. The wheel begins to flash with light, then spin wildly, finally ceasing as the light changes to red, the runes now in different positions. The door is then opened but, to everyone's dismay, as they pass through the portal, they find themselves outside, in what appears to be Joyland Park.
The door slams shut behind them, vanishing as the group looks around in disbelief. In spite of the familiarity, Jenny is unnerved by the sight of the abandoned park, feeling there is something more to the place than at first sight. They decide to look around to verify if this Joyland is the real one or a construct of the Shadow World, finding the Fishing Pond from earlier still open. Daringly, Dee casts a line into the water, which snags onto something. To everyone's horror, what emerges as Dee pulls up the line is an animated, headless and bloated corpse, the remains of Scott "Slug" Martell, one of the two young men who'd stolen the first game, the corpse of whom tries to strangle Dee to death. Jenny tries to pry him off while the others try to wrestle Dee away from the decapitated body; to Jenny's overwhelming disgust, the body, having been waterlogged for so long, begins to actually squish under her arms, her fingernails full of rotted flesh. Ultimately, Slug's corpse lets go, jerked back underneath the water, allowing Dee to escape being pulled under, although at the loss of her diving knife.
Recognizing the tattered rags of clothing, Jenny hysterically realizes that the body is all that remains of Slug; she becomes so overwrought, thinking Summer might have been subjected to the same thing, that Dee is forced to slap Jenny to calm her down, restoring the girl's sanity.
In need of weaponry, Audrey suggests they go to the mine cart ride, known as The Pit, and take picks and axes that they had seen earlier that day. Agreeing, after cleaning themselves off from the Fishing Pond, they set out for the Pit, although along the way, Audrey hears music. They then notice something or someone small scampering creature, which Jenny likens to a "withered gray fetus" and the small person from her dream, racing ahead of them, too fast to get a proper look.
Entering the darkened mine, the quartet follows the railroad track leading into the cavern. They come upon several ghastly yet silence scenes, including a saloon full of skeletons, miner figures trapped in a cave-in, and one skeletal miner with ants crawling over his face. Fortunately, they manage to find pick-axes, glass bottles and hammers. Momentarily, Jenny feels a tremor along the ground, but dismisses it.
Unfortunately, as they try to leave, Michael notices that the railway track has now split in two. Trying to find their way back, the group notices that the cave is starting to look more realistic, even revealing an actual mine cart for transporting ore. Dee believes that this might have been her subconscious manifestation of her claustrophobia. All the same, they cannot find the displays that they had passed when the entered the mine.
As they travel on, they find themselves truly inside a mine, Jenny revealing that Joyland had been built on one in the 1800s. However, when Dee tells them about having a nightmare once about being inside a collapsing cave, the mine responds to her mental fears and the cave starts to crumble around them all. The floor collapses under Jenny, cutting her off from the rest of her friends and knocking her unconscious, losing all of her supplies in the process.
Jenny awakens in a deeper section of the cave, alone and without her flashlight. As she tries to get her bearings, terrified, Julian arrives, bearing a torch and clad all in black. Jenny reacts with coldness to him, mocking him when he uses the rune Kenaz to create a second torch from thin air. Annoyed by her newfound strength and resistance to his charm, Julian warns her not to anger him. He places the second torch into a natural stone sconce, allowing Jenny to realize that the place she has landed in is completely closed off.
Not allowing Julian to intimidate her, she insists on knowing where Tom is, demanding him back, although Julian responds that she must "win the Game" to achieve that. She asks him about the new Game, but Julian replies that it will cost her. Furious with him, Jenny kisses Julian, hard, hastily and without emotion, not allowing him to "soften" it in any way. Although shocked and enraged, after breaking away from him, Julian taunts Jenny, insisting he isn't sure if the clue was worth the icy kiss she'd given him. For that, she insults him, claiming she'd "known dead fish that were better kissers than [him]", again making the Shadow Man furious.
However, Julian retains a hold of himself, giving Jenny her clue: a solid gold Spanish doubloon. Jenny finally figures out that the new game is the same as the Joyland Park treasure hunt the children had been playing that day. She asks Julian if the park is based on her childhood, but the Shadow Man denies this, insisting the "Shadow Park" had been created for a "special" purpose ten years ago. He also reveals that pits and deep places of the earth, such as the mine on which Joyland had been build, are places the Shadow Men tend to lurk throughout the world.
Julian confirms Jenny's conjecture that Tom and Zach are being held on Treasure Island at the center of the park, also telling her the only way to get there is by bridge; swimming is not possible, and the only way to cross the bridge is to find and use three of the gold coins hidden in the Shadow Park. Upon Jenny stating that she now has one coin, Julian casually states that all she has to do is leave the rocky prison with it, after which the area abruptly goes dark, Jenny's dark suitor disappearing with the light.
Water and IceEdit
Alone once again, Jenny attempts to figure a way out of the cavern chamber, having recovered her functioning but dying flashlight. She attempts to use the technique of image versus reality, the way she had to escape the fire in Lambs and Monsters, but to no avail, the rocks being too real. After trying to shout for help, Jenny sits, huddled against a wall of compacted boulders. However, she quickly discovers she is being watched: hearing the sound of whispers, she turns, and is horrified to see eyes, the gleaming and ravenous eyes of the Shadow Men staring at her.
The eyes soon vanish, but are followed by a sound of trickling water entering the rock prison. Quickly deducing that the Shadow Men intend to drown her, Jenny tries to seal off the crack the water is gushing in from before she is killed. She briefly wonders if this is Julian's doing but, remembering the eyes, she suspects that the Shadow Men alone are causing the flood, and that Julian, unaware of what occurred, will likely find her dead, too late to save her.
Just as the water reaches her throat, Jenny remembers one of the runes, the ice rune Isa, and using a small rock, cuts the rune over the crack, instantly causing the water to freeze and stop flowing into the chamber. However, due to the coldness of the rock prison and the water, Jenny soon succumbs to hypothermia and slips under the water, unconscious.
Jenny slowly awakens to warmth surrounding her, considering all the people she'd be hurting and leaving behind if she died. Hearing someone urgently and lovingly calling her name, believing it to be Tom, Jenny forces herself to wake up, fighting to stay alive. However, regaining consciousness, she is stunned to discover the person who had been calling to her had not been Tom, but Julian, who provides her with a warm drink, having placed her in a bed of furs next to a small fire. Jenny is dumbfounded to see Julian for once looking shaken and afraid, his face gaunt and pale at the thought of her being dead.
Upon revealing her surprise that Julian had not only never sent the flood, but cared if she had died, he miserably repeats that he loves her, having an affection for not just her looks, but for her inner goodness, sweetness and purity. He tells her that, when she had first opened the closet at her grandfather's house as a child, the other Shadow Men had wanted Jenny dead, but Julian had protested it, telling her they had "laughed" at him for being in love. However, Julian felt that he'd "needed" her, never understanding why, and continued to watch over her as she grew up.
Moved, Jenny asks him about his position as a Shadow Man, with Julian replying that he, like his fellows, is damned by his own innate wickedness to watch those on Earth, which "has colors" not found in the Shadow World. Despite being able to create anything he wishes through magic, such constructs will ultimately fade away; nothing in the Shadow World is permanent or consistent. Jenny questions whether Julian could leave the realm, possibly change his ways for the better, but he bleakly confirms his eternal malevolent nature, which causes the other existing worlds to keep those of his species confined to their world. He also tells Jenny he is immortal, having never been born, but created using a piece of wood known as a runestave, a special one called the Stave of Life. When a name is carved into it, that entity is brought into existence. Slicing out the name destroys the entity. This method, deemed "cold" by Jenny, also explains the chill nature of the Shadow Men.
Jenny muses what it might have been like if Julian had come to her without games and trickery, telling her humbly and directly that he loved her. She has a brief vision of being Julian's "princess", living with him in a palace of icy stone, having exotic pets, exquisite jewelry, even her friends, and everything she could ever want that Julian would easily provide. However, ultimately, Jenny realizes that, if she could have anything, she'd want Tom, destroying the vision of being Julian's consort forever, as she cannot forgive him for the suffering the Shadow Man had put her boyfriend through.
Recovering, Jenny tries to leave, but stumbles, Julian catching her as she is about to fall. Still haunted by nearly losing her, Julian leans in to kiss her, Jenny's assumptions of Julian "shattering" at the depth of emotion and suffering he displays. However, remembering the times Tom and she had comforted each other when either was in pain, Jenny stands and prepares to leave, insisting that Tom needs her. Restored to his old self, Julian agrees, smiling bitterly at her; when Jenny finally notices that the doubloon he'd given her had been lost in the mine, he refuses outright to give her another, pointing out the exit door. Stunned, Jenny leaves, infuriated with both Julian, and with herself for feeling sympathy for him.
"Leo, The Paper-Eating Lion"Edit
Upon reaching the exit, Jenny is reunited with Dee, Audrey and Michael, who inform her that, after the cave-in, the mine had become a normal attraction of fiberglass again, but Jenny had vanished for two hours straight. She informs them of the new game and their task of finding the three gold coins.
As the quartet continues on, they encounter Leo, a "paper-eating" garbage disposal shaped like a lion, which vacuums up trash. However, the voice of the mechanical lion is now far more disturbing, deeper and darkly cybernetic. Deducing that this latest game is a quest type game, with them having to actually acquire the coins rather than only finding them, Dee insists that Audrey stick her hand in Leo's mouth, having noticed something shimmering inside. Goaded by Dee and despite Michael and Jenny's warnings, Audrey places her hand inside the mechanical lion, able to grab at the object inside. However, as she secures the coin, Leo's face morphs into a hideous, stone-like creature, the suction of the disposal now powerful enough to trap Audrey, intending to rip off her arm.
Using the pick, Dee pries the jaws of the deformed leonine beast apart, allowing Michael and Jenny to pull Audrey free. Although injured, with large bleeding gashes along her arm, Audrey triumphantly opens her hand, still clutching the gold doubloon.
Realizing that lit areas of the park are the likeliest to have a doubloon to find, after bandaging Audrey's arm and briefly resting, the group moves on, Jenny noticing Dee's feelings of guilt for Audrey's injuries.
Grandpa Evenson, Slug And P.C.Edit
Finding the arcade open, they all go inside, although Jenny is shocked to see that the arcade, in contrast to the updated one they'd seen, is the antique one from her childhood instead. Michael briefly sees the scampering creature again, but Jenny is comforted overall by the familiarity of the room, reminiscing about her grandfather and the happy times they'd had at the arcade.
Combing the old-fashioned machines and games for more gold coins, Jenny finds herself before a mechanical fortune-teller machine, deciding ultimately to turn it on. Seeing the mechanical wizard's shabby condition, Jenny inexplicably feels pity for it, thinking it "trapped". As the wizard's eyes meet hers, Jenny, horrified, realizes that inside is the soul of her grandfather, Eric Evenson. As if to confirm the revelation, the fortune card Jenny receives from the machine has the words "Help Me" printed over and over on it.
Jenny figures out that, in accordance with Julian's words, the Shadow Park had been created for a special purpose: an unholy punishment for Grandpa Evenson for conjuring and imprisoning them, made still twisted and worse by their imprisoning his soul in, of all things, an undying wizard animatronic. His capture by the Shadow Men corresponds to the establishment of the park, ten years ago.
The others attempt to comfort Jenny when another card pops from the machine, telling them to look in a nearby black cabinet, a game machine for questioning "spirits". However, when they activate it, inside are the severed, quivering heads of Slug and P.C. Serrani. When Jenny begins to dread that Summer is also here, the wizard presents a third card, instructing them to go to the fun house, with the heads bobbing in agreement, although it is unknown whether for Summer or another doubloon. Sorrowfully apologizing to her grandfather, who is suffering now for her sake, she vows to save him before departing the arcade.
Entering the disturbing fun house, the group looks over every display and detail, examining anything humanoid or golden. They soon come to a grotesque series of displays: exhibits of people being tortured and gruesomely executed; the displays are revealed to have been another of Dee's fears.
Dee begins mumbling to herself to remain calm, repeating a proverb she had heard in a movie: "I am as strong as I need to be. I am my only master". Although Jenny is frightened by the idea of the strong and usually cool Dee being afraid, she is intrigued by the saying. At that moment, Michael and then Jenny see Summer, whole in body, calmly asleep on a table in one of the displays.
However, as Jenny moves towards her friend, a wooden spiked wheel above Summer moves of its own accord, slicing through the table just as Jenny grabs her; Dee aids the two by knocking the wheel away from them. Summer, awakened by the noise, asks if the friends are really here; it is revealed that, since the very first game, Summer has been here, with no recollection of what had transpired after her own nightmare. Upon questioning the girl, the group, stunned and relieved, realizes it in fact is the real Summer, and not a hideous creature or machination of the Shadow World.
The group quickly locates the exit, although not before Jenny sees the malicious eyes of the Shadow Men again, watching them. On the way out, Summer asks for some chocolate, and, upon Dee opening a bag of M&Ms for safety's sake, the group is pleasantly surprised to find "five brown ones, four yellows, two greens, one red, and a gold coin", bringing the amount to two doubloons.
The group, now with Summer, go through the exit, although Jenny, instead of leaving as the others had, finds herself once again with Julian. Glad to see him, she is grateful to Julian for keeping Summer alive and returning her to them, although he moodily points out he had only done it for Jenny, confirming that Summer is truly fine, body and soul, having kept her in a deep sleep, in the Shadow World, since her capture.
Despite her thanks and Jenny embracing him, Julian remains prickly to her, Jenny becoming upset by his unwillingness to acknowledge the good he had done by showing Summer mercy. He reaffirms his evil nature, but Jenny denies it, calling him a liar when he tries to say that he had killed Slug and P.C. Grudgingly, under Jenny's interrogation, Julian informs her that Slug and P.C. had indeed set him free from the paper house but, terrified at witnessing Julian emerge from the closet, the two boys had blindly raced out of the house, where the other Shadow Men were waiting, Julian unable to prevent his ancestors from destroying them.
He also mentions that, when Grandpa Evenson was dragged into the Shadow World, he could do nothing to help the old man, prevented from going near Jenny's grandfather by his brethren; Summer was the only one Julian could protect, since he had won her as his own legitimate prey as per the rules of the first game. However, he states that another reason he'd protected the girl was to eventually use her against Jenny, even though he ultimately didn't.
Still not believing Julian's declared maliciousness, Jenny kisses him, insisting he could change for the better. Although initially experiencing an inner shattering, as Jenny had previously, when she insists that he could be better, Julian angrily insists he is what he wants to be, forcing Jenny to leave and promising to prove how wicked he can be to her.
The Tunnel of Love and DespairEdit
In spite of her anger with Julian's behavior, Jenny pushes thoughts of him away, focusing only on rescuing Tom and Zach, and removing Summer for the danger of the Shadow World. Once she emerges, the others again state that Jenny had been missing a while, as they had informed Summer of what had happened since she had been taken by Julian. Noting the only attraction now on is the Tunnel of Love, the group heads towards it. As they go, they again encounter a scampering creature, this time larger and reddish, though they cannot make out its features clearly due to its speed.
As they approach, Jenny notices that, rather than "The Tunnel of Love", the sign now says "The Tunnel of Love and D---"; they are unable to decipher the last word due to ivy obscuring it, though they assume it is meant to say "Death". Boarding a swan-shaped boat, the friends enter the tunnel, but notice that the wall, normally covered with comedic murals, are now blank. They also notice, to their concern, that the flashlights are dying quickly; Dee reproaches herself as "stupid" for not thinking to conserve them, shocking Jenny. The boat slows down and stops, Jenny sharply telling Dee not to touch the water to be certain of the halt.
Suddenly, spotlights turn on, revealing Julian, who is holding the final doubloon, and tells them the ride is actually called the Tunnel of Love and Despair. He insists that all they need to do to acquire the last coin is to "listen", and have a "chat" with him. However, the chat quickly turns ugly as Julian begins to pick up on the group's greatest personal secrets, exposing them to the others. He effortlessly unveils Dee's insecurities about her intellect, and how she feels like she's failed her mother, and Audrey by getting her hurt with Leo. Noting Dee's pain, Jenny helps her to remember her mantra, "I am my only master", while Audrey and Michael come to her defense, the auburn haired girl knowing Dee had never meant to harm her, restoring Dee's faith in herself.
Julian moves on to Michael; although the spaniel-eyed boy initially holds out against Julian, the Shadow Man reveals how Audrey would say things about Michael behind his back, calling him names and insisting he was only there until she found someone better. Jenny shouts at Julian to leave Michael alone, calling him a "bastard", but it is Audrey who helps Michael, telling that, although she had said terrible things about him, after battling Julian all this time she had come realize that she truly loved Michael for who he was.
The Shadow Man then focuses his tirade on Audrey, insisting Audrey is going to become "as shrill and contentious bitch" like her mother, incapable of true depth, but both Michael and Dee, to Julian's anger, reassure Audrey. He proceeds to turn on Summer but Jenny breaks in, rushing over to him and screaming for him to say something to her alone.
Julian begins discussing the cruelty of life with her, insisting on there being no point to resisting darkness, and that Jenny should just surrender. However she stands firm, acknowledging the truth of Julian's words but refusing to give in to it, citing there are people in the world, like Dee's grandmother Aba and Grandpa Evenson, who still care. Finally, Jenny admits to Julian that, in spite of what he's done, she cares about him, even admitting to herself that she loves him in a way.
Stunned by Jenny's admission, Julian disappears, leaving behind the third and final doubloon for them.
The group, now feeling more bonded, leave the tunnel, only to find the entire park alight and functioning. Before heading for the bridge to Treasure Island, Jenny leads the group back to the arcade. Going back to the fortune-teller machine, addressing her grandfather for the last time, Jenny carves a rune into the wood of the display: the sacrifice rune, Gebo. Staining it with her blood, she activates the rune, which releases Grandpa Evenson's soul from the Shadow Men. A final card emerges from the fortune-teller, with only two words for Jenny: "Thank You".
Jenny, sobbing, attempts to do the same for Slug and P.C. but, at that moment, the headless corpse of P.C. enters the arcade and attacks Dee. Acting quickly, Michael stabs his finger and helps Jenny stain the runes carved over Slug and P.C.'s heads, yelling out the rune's name at the same time. After some moments of mindless flailing, P.C.'s body crumples to the ground.
The friends then rush from the arcade and race for the impossibly high bridge, quickly inserting the coins into a tollbooth to cross. They all link hands, due to the steepness and height of the bridge but, upon ascending, they are shocked to see below not Joyland, but several land masses among stars, all of different sizes and colors, with corresponding bridges. Audrey informs them that they are the nine worlds of Norse mythology, each world the residence of a given species, including the gods, the elves, the dead and the Shadow Men. However, Dee notes that Earth is missing, Audrey replying that perhaps they won't see that world until they win the game. In spite of her fear of heights, Jenny forces herself to keep going with her friends.
Descending back, they land on Treasure Island in the heart of Joyland, entering its single lighthouse. Inside, they find a diorama of pirates, and in one boat, Tom and Zach. Jenny runs towards them and embraces her boyfriend, kissing and promising to protect him in spite of his warning of Julian having been present. Jenny is also happy to see Zach, then, noticing the two are bound, she saws through their ropes. Tom catches a glimpse of Summer, stunned to discover she is still alive. He also reveals that they had been kept in the lighthouse by Julian the entire time, only recently brought to the bottom, although both had seen and been frightened by the eyes of the other Shadow Men.
The Shadow MenEdit
Julian soon appears after his captives are freed, seemingly "tired". Jenny confronts him, and he confirms that she has won and she can go home, stating that he will no longer come after her, this having been the final Game. The door to Grandpa Evenson's house reappears, open and waiting for everyone to step through. His mood suddenly darkening, Julian commands Tom to take Jenny and leave, before "[he] do[es] something", giving them thirty seconds in spite of Jenny's reluctance to go, wanting to talk to Julian. Despite being forced by Tom and Dee to the door, Jenny now realizes that she wants to save Julian as well, despite the Shadow Man's passionate insistence that he can never change.
However, they are interrupted by the arrival of the other Shadow Men, who come between them and the door home. To everyone's horror, far from their assumption of the Shadow Men being a "heartbreakingly beautiful" species, they are in fact twisted, unimaginable deformities, with mutilated bodies and voices like ice: they are the scampering and hideous beings they had encountered, including the withered fetus revealed to have been the figure in Jenny's dream. Looking for some explanation, Jenny appeals to Julian, who only confirms that the despicable creatures are the Shadow Men, what they all inevitably become over the centuries despite being "born in perfection" when first created. It is also what Julian himself will become one day, whether he wishes to or not.
When Julian voices his puzzlement at them being present, since "this isn't their Game", they reveal that they have a right to take Jenny, for freeing their prisoners: her grandfather, Slug and P.C. Julian is stunned at the revelation, and only looks at Jenny. He attempts to mitigate the situation, but the Shadow Men are adamant about having Jenny in payment for freeing the souls of their playthings. Dee tries to fight them, but as her blows come, the Shadow Men become insubstantially, unable to be harmed. One of them, a tall Shadow Man, only tells Julian that they cannot change the law; Jenny must now stay with them.
As the Shadow Men come forward to take her, Julian suddenly commands them to stop, not wanting them to have the girl he loves; Jenny quickly understands that they are toying with all of them, even Julian, drawing out their pain for their amusement. However, they agree to renounce their claim if someone will take Jenny's place. Bravely, one after another, each of Jenny's friends offer to remain in her stead. Although the Shadow Men are pleased with the prospect, Jenny insists that they take her, since she had evaded them years ago.
However, as Jenny reaches to take the closest Shadow Man's hand, Julian tackles her out of its grasp, yelling for her and the others to get out through the door, telling them the Shadow Men won't follow them if they can get outside the Shadow World. Infuriated and demanding blood, one of the Shadow Men withdraws an ancient runestave: the Stave of Life. Angrily, the Shadow Men threaten to "unmake" Julian if he will not stand aside. When Julian refuses to let them take Jenny, insisting they will have to kill him first, the Shadow Man holding the Stave takes a knife made of bone . . . and cuts out Julian's name.
Jenny quickly races back to catch the mortally wounded Julian, dragging him quickly out the door and scrambling back with the others as Dee slams the door shut after them.
"I Am My Only Master"Edit
Now in Grandpa Evenson's house once more, the dying Julian lays on the hall floor, informing her that, with his death, the Shadow Men had been repaid and will not come back for Jenny anymore. Jenny holds his cold hand, seeing every guise Julian had ever taken, every form he had ever assumed. Despite her cries for him not to die, Julian thanks her for giving him the gift of love, and in return, his death will give her the gift of freedom from the Shadow World. Sorrowfully, Jenny forgives him for all he has done, and Julian states that he will "go into [another dream]", hoping Jenny will dream of him, and that if he is not forgotten, he'll never truly die. As he passes away, he drops the promise ring he had given Jenny. This time, however, the words inside the band have changed to the sentence "I am my only master". Julian's body then dissolves "into mist and shadow" in Jenny's grasp, the last there was of the youngest Shadow Man.
As a new day dawns, the friends, now all reunited, call their families, telling them they intend to return home to California, and that Summer is alive. After this, the group reflects on Julian and all the ways they have changed from their experiences with him; Jenny now finds the world a safer, but "poorer" place without Julian, vowing never to forget him. Summer, of all people, states that although Julian said he had been evil, his sacrifice for Jenny proved that he in truth had also changed. To Jenny's happiness, she now realizes she and Tom are equals in strength and love, Tom even not caring that she is now once again wearing Julian's promise ring.
As the book ends and the teens hail a cab to go to the airport, Jenny looks back at the dawn sky, wishing Julian well should he ever come back to life again, either by rebirth or the power of the Stave of Life.
Notes and TriviaEdit
- The runes carved by Jenny and the others are all part of the Elder Futhark alphabet, though there are more runes that are not shown.
- One of the runes mentioned, Thurisaz, is not given a concrete meaning in the book. In actual Elder Futhark, Thurisaz, also known as the Thorn Rune, represents darkness, negativity, and thunder.
- Looking at the light house on Treasure Island, Jenny muses that is looks "like a tower for imprisoned princes". This could be a subtle reference to the historic "Princes in the Tower"; the young King Edward V and his brother, Prince Richard of Shrewsbury, the Duke of York. The boys had been sent to the Tower of London by their uncle, who, instead of having his nephew coronated, declared the young brothers unfit to inherit the crown, took the throne and became Richard III. Soon after this, the children were never seen or heard from again.
- The Shadow World is finally revealed to actually be Niflheim, one of the nine worlds of Norse mythology, confirming Audrey's theory in The Hunter. As such, the Shadow Men must then be hrimthurs, or Frost Giants, the oldest and most wicked species in Norse myth.
- The other eight Norse worlds are also revealed:
- Midgard - Earth, the human world
- Asgard - the Nordic Heaven and the home of the ruling Norse gods, the Aesir
- Vanaheim - the home of the lesser Nordic gods, the Vanir
- Alfheim - home of the Ljosalfar (the light elves)
- Svarthalfheim - home of the dokkalfar (the dark elves) and the dwarves
- Jotunheim - the home of the jotun: trolls, ogres and mountain giants
- Muspellheim - the home of the fire giants, the archenemies of the gods
- Hel - the Nordic Underworld, the land of the dead, ruled over by, and named after, its queen: Hel, or Hella in some translations.
- Despite Julian's death, considering that a possible fourth book is coming, Julian might in fact be resurrected in the future, either through reincarnation or by having his name rewritten onto the Stave of Life.
- Joyland Park is loosely based on Kennywood Park located in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania.