The Cloud Castle – Page 158


The Naga utters a warning hiss as Jack approaches, and her hair rises in tight-knit locks like a dozen accusing fingers. Her hair begins to bob and weave, and the Naga utters a low droning hiss. Jack suddenly realizes she is about to cast a spell! He drags out the Shield of Balance … too late.

The Naga completes the gestures and chants necessary for her spell, and the force of it lifts Jack from his feet. He can feel waves of magic coursing over and around him, wrapping, tightening … and solidifying. The air around him thickens, taking on a stony gray tinge. He suddenly realizes what magic the Naga has cast – she is trying to turn him to stone! Petrification magic is a favorite of her race, hearkening back to the ancient Gorgon Sisters – Medusa, Euryale, and Stheno – who form the pantheon of the Naga faith.

The stone tightens around him, drawing in until he is encapsulated in a sphere of stone …

And then tighter still! In seconds, the stone has bonded with his skin and begins sinking deeper, seeking to replace his mortal flesh with dead mineral.

Then, just as suddenly, the Shield of Balance pulses, casting back the foul magic onto its caster. It takes Jack a few moments to gather his faculties, drag himself to his feet, and find his weapon. When he does, he is greeted by an astounding sight – the Naga frozen in stone, the look of disbelief on her face almost comical. But Jack cannot summon laughter – his brush with terrible death was too unsettling. He studies the petrified Naga with something close to pity tingeing his heart; he knows how her last moments must have felt!

But he cannot linger – the Princess waits!

Turn to 24.