The Cloud Castle – Page 100


With the tenders of the Shard slain and the Shard itself dormant, Perilous Jack and Sela-Ffionath are free to leave the piece of crystal behind and hurry to their next appointment – a reunion with the Princess.

Beyond this chamber they pass through a low passage and into the next.

The first sight to greet Jack’s eyes is a trio of Red Psi-Mechs, evidently set to guard the Princess. Jack snarls with impatience – he is ready to be done with these tests and finished with his quest – and tears into the machines with a vengeance, swiftly scattering their remains throughout the chamber. When the last Psi-Mech falls, Jack sees – as if in a vision – a bounding bundle of energy and chatter sailing toward him, blonde locks streaming in the wind of her own wake.

“Jack!” Vasilisa cries, flinging herself into the warrior’s arms. Jack drops his sword, for once relieved to be free of that burden in his hand and wraps her in his armored arms. She pours out the tale of her capture and imprisonment in a breathless rush, of which Jack hears barely a word. The impact of her collision with him has turned him around on his heels to face Sela-Ffionath again, and all he can see is the relieved and amused grin of the Elven sorceress. Vasilisa notices Sela-Ffionath, and her face lights up with recognition.

“Fiona!” Vasilisa cries, and rushes forward to embrace the woman. The Elf laughs with delight and clasps the girl close. The woman shakes her head in amazement as Vasilisa maintains a ceaseless exposition.

At last, Sela-Ffionath gestures toward something above and behind Jack. The warrior turns and perceives a Beanstalk soaring up the wall of the chamber, toward the dark and distant ceiling. He sets the Princess down, still chattering.

“Vasilisa,” he says softly, stifling her excited storytelling with a finger across her lips. She falls silent and looks up into his eyes. “My work is not finished here,” he says. “I have freed your Guards – they wait for you outside the castle – but I have not freed the Eagles yet, neither have I slain the Giant. You understand? I must leave you for a time, but I will return. Sela-Ffionath will guide you from the castle, to rejoin your Guard.”

Vasilisa nods. “I understand.”

He hands her the Lorikeet Ribbon. “I believe this belongs to you.”

She takes the Ribbon with a gleeful squeal and affixes it to her collar.

Next, Jack passes her the Pouch of Ghrul. “Will you kindly fill this with the Giant’s treasure?” Jack asks. “I have a feeling I will not have leisure to do so on my way back down.”

Vasilisa sets about cheerfully ransacking the Giant’s treasure, stuffing the Pouch with Gold Coins, gems, weapons, armor, and potions a-plenty.

Jack and Sela-Ffionath draw together. “And the Cloud Giant?” asks Perilous Jack.

“On the roof of the castle,” replies the Elven sorceress, gesturing again toward the Beanstalk. “There he communes with the dark powers he serves. The Eagles of the Princess’s Royal Guard are caged upon the roof as well; you would be well-advised to rescue them before attempting to fight the Giant. Their aid will doubtless prove invaluable.”

“Sage advice,” says Jack.

Remove the Lorikeet Ribbon from the Pouch of Ghrul.

“Jack, beware the Cloud Giant!” the sorceress cries suddenly. “He is an immensely powerful magician. Do you have a shield to defend you?”

If Jack has the Shield of Balance, turn to 135.

If Jack has the Dragon Scale Shield, Clay Shield, or Harlequin Shield, turn to 146.

If Jack does not have a shield, turn to 132.