The Cloud Castle – Page 116


An instant later a pair of Psi-Mechs come swarming at him from the murk, their jaws groaning open to emit rippling cones of psionic energy.

Jack is too well-studied in the ways of these wretched creatures to be caught in their crossfire; he swiftly puts an end to their suffering with the Dancing Dagger of Danzibar.

A few steps later the air begins to grow warmer, and a soft red glow impinges on the flickering yellow. In a moment, the cause of the warmth is revealed as a huge Lindworm shifts from the murk to block his path. The Lindworms are ancient creatures, believed by some to be the offspring of the Salamanders who inhabit elemental fire and the Dinosaurs of the First Aeon. They are ancestors to the Dragons, although they do not possess the terrible magic of that race.

Behind the giant red lizard rises an untidy pile of steel blocks, which serve as a makeshift roof for the cage imprisoning the Giant Eagles. The entrance to the cage is sealed by a crackling forcefield of electricity, the source of the yellow glow. Near the lashing tail of the Lindworm, Jack can see the control switch for the forcefield.

Jack leaps as the Lindworm pounces, barely clearing the smoldering, pebbly skin of its head, twists in mid-air, and thrusts downward, plunging the Dancing Dagger into the base of the monster’s skull. He rolls away, tumbling down the side of the Lindworm’s body, trusting his armor to protect him from the terrific heat of the monster’s fiery heart. The Lindworm crashes into a motionless heap, gasps its final, volcanic breath, and expires. Jack regains his feet and his blade, handling the weapon delicately until it cools enough to return to its scabbard.

The control switch is simple; a push and twist of the lever is enough to collapse the forcefield. The Giant Eagles hesitate not an instant; they have witnessed the death-battle of the creature who guarded their cage door and have massed near the forcefield awaiting its collapse. As soon as the last tendril of flickering power has faded from the doorway, the Eagles explode from their cage in a tornado of shrieks and feathers. They make for the upper atmosphere, screaming out their pent fury as they climb. Jack watches them go, hoping they remember him long enough to help in the battle he now faces.

He turns back, toward the Beanstalk and the waiting Giant.

Turn to 87.