The Cloud Castle – Page 147


“I will fight the Winter Wolves,” Perilous Jack declares. “Long have I desired a cloak of their pelt.”

The Ogre Mage laughs at Jack’s bravado, and Jack wonders if the Ogre can sense his doubt. Even a single Winter Wolf is a daunting challenge; Jack does not know if he can withstand four. Still, he swallows a Fire Flower and braces himself for the fight.

The Wolves surge forward even as the magic takes hold of Jack, and a moment later he is locked in desperate combat, leaping and spinning to dodge the crush of huge bodies, the snapping of terrible fangs, the gusts of supernaturally cold wind exhaled by the Wolves, all the while slashing, thrusting, flinging fireballs left and right. Again and again the Wolves score, tearing into armor and flesh with searing cold fangs.

He leaps, calling upon the full might of the Seven League Boots, planting a foot on the broad back of a Winter Wolf to act as a springboard, and launches a fireball, striking a lucky blow directly into the nearest set of snapping fangs. The fireball detonates, tearing the beast’s head apart, and it falls dead, the first of four to be slain. Jack’s leap lands him nearly in the maw of the next beast; he stumbles and beats a hasty retreat, gaining the Beanstalk and the marginal safety of the huge leaves.

With the partial concealment afforded by the foliage, he gains a bit of respite from the relentless attack of the three surviving Winter Wolves. Relying on his greater mobility among the leaves and stems, he ambushes a Wolf from behind and assaults it with a ferocious barrage of fireballs, slaying the beast amid terrific howls. Half the Wolves are slain now – but the huge expenditure of magic required to slay them has bankrupted the temporary effects of the Fire Flower. Even as the second Winter Wolf tumbles from the Beanstalk, blazing fur lighting the cloud-floor with hellish luminescence as it falls, the magic of the Fire Flower fades.

Desperately Jack reaches for his pouch, intent on drawing forth another Fire Flower – a PowaShroom – anything, when suddenly the Ogre Mage, who has so far observed the combat with interest, snorts in disgust and snarls at the remaining Wolves. The two survivors withdraw, crouching at the feet of their master and baring their icy fangs at Jack.

Jack does not question the reprieve. He swallows down a Potion of Healing as quickly as he can and takes up his weapon more firmly, advancing back onto the TowaShrooms to learn why the Ogre called off the combat.

Remove a Fire Flower and a Potion of Healing from the Pouch of Ghrul and turn to 44.