The Cloud Castle – Page 136


The magic of the Flake of the Eld-Star fades, and Jack is mortal again.

Beyond this chamber he passes 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, and suddenly he sees a shape approaching from the Chamber of the Shard!

Jack pushes the Princess aside and regains his sword. “Halt and declare yourself!” he cries into the dim corridor connecting the chambers. The figure advances into the light.

She is an Elf woman, tall and radiantly beautiful. There is something in her green hair and shining green eyes that is familiar . . .

“Fiona!” Vasilisa cries, and rushes forward to embrace the woman. The Elf laughs with delight and clasps the girl close. To Jack she says, “I am Sela-Ffionath, a Knight-Commander of Elfame, and lately the Emerald Guardian whom you faced but a moment ago. Thanks to you, Jack, I have regained my true form and nature. You have set me free of the corrupting magic of the Shard.”

Turn to 121.