The Cloud Castle – Page 103


Perilous Jack flings the Dancing Dagger of Danzibar at the Beholder Lich, relying on the magical dagger to distract the beast while he closes in with the Rune Sword.

For an instant, it seems the ruse will be successful; the Beholder Lich flails at the vicious little blade with a tentacle, losing the rotting eyeball at the tip of the tendril for its trouble.

Meanwhile Jack leaps across the pool of bubbling green liquid, landing on the other side near the giant organ suspended in its net of nerves. As he tenses to spring a second time and slash at the hovering Beholder, suddenly one of the eyeball-tipped tendrils whips around in his direction. In an instant Jack sees his error – although his dagger and sword are keen, his sword-arm strong, his leaps powerful and sure, yet Jack bears no protection against magic rays.

A powerful yellow ray bursts from the eyeball at the tip of the Beholder Lich’s tentacle, striking him with the force of a raging bull. Every muscle in his body goes instantly rigid, his sword falls from nerveless fingers, and he is cast into the air with the force of his bodily spasm. The Ray of Paralysis is so effective he, unable to move even his eyes.

It is thanks to this latter fact that he sees his destiny unfolding across the chamber. If he could but close his eyes, he would. The wall of the chamber opens with a sucking noise, admitting a pair of Illithids. From the second Red Pipe in the room three Psi-Mechs emerge. Together the alien monsters advance slowly upon their new captive. The Illithids pause to examine the Emerald Orb, and finding it undamaged, draw closer to Jack. They do not speak; their kind are telepathic. One of the Illithids probes his skull with the powerful tentacles growing around its mouth. It looks into his eyes.

*More brains for the Pool* the Illithid says into his mind. There is no humor, no wry triumph, only cold, cruel fact. Perilous Jack will live on as a mind in the Brain-Pool, watch as his thoughts and memories, his hopes and dreams, everything that makes him unique, bleed away from his brain and into the slime of the Pool. And when his brain is properly fermented, when every shred of his sanity is lost, the Illithids will stuff his brain into the body of a Psi-Mech.

His brain will live forever. But for Perilous Jack, this is . . .


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