The Cloud Castle – Page 17


Jack lands on a FloatSteel block hovering alone near the roof of the chamber.

His landing was lucky, indeed – if he had missed, he might have fallen into a pit of lava far below. As his eyes adjust, Jack sees several such pits and shakes his head in wonder at the diabolical construction of the Cloud Castle.

He hears a woman’s voice and peers through the gloom with his darkshine-enchanted eyes. There, on a FloatSteel block, stands Aamina! Jack notes another block between them, hovering a few feet from the floor, and moves to leap – then checks himself just in time as a Lava Wyrm erupts from the lava, snapping at the air where Jack was about to be! Frustrated, the Wyrm utters a screech and plunges back into the lava.

Aamina notices the commotion and spies Jack. “Wait there!” she cries. “Faiza and Layla are coming!”

Jack crouches down and now he can see more detail of the room. Four pits in the floor bubble with lava, and Jack can see multiple scaly Wyrm heads peering up, waiting for their chance. At the far end of the room stands a solitary Red Pipe. Faiza emerges and leaps from the Red Pipe, narrowly avoiding the snapping fangs of a Lava Wyrm. Layla emerges behind her.

Layla notices him. “Up! Everyone up! Jack, go!”

It takes a second to sink in, but the Lorikeets don’t wait. Faiza leaps to the nearest FloatSteel block, dodging a pair of Lava Wyrms snapping at her from either side. Their necks are long, and they can leap to astonishing heights! Faiza times her jumps and Layla is right behind her. Aamina watches, timing her own movements, and the Lorikeets jump in concert, each of them avoiding fiery death by scant inches as Lava Wyrms leap to snatch them from the air.

Aamina screams his name, snapping him from his horrified, helpless contemplation of the scene. He suddenly realizes he is very much in the way. He leaps up and scrabbles back on the floor of the Cloud Castle’s ground level just in time for Aamina to bound past him. Faiza and Layla follow in quick succession, and they all fall in a tumble together. Layla is the first to recover and lunges for the hidden control for the door. The floor seals shut, almost in the face of an outraged Lava Wyrm.

The Lorikeets disintegrate in a fit of relieved laughter, slapping each other on the back. Jack just shakes his head; to think, he came down here to “rescue” them.

“What was in the Red Pipe?” he asks.

Layla produces a small, beautifully crafted Harp. “This is an Elven Harp. Watch. Aamina, your arm?” Aamina presents her arm, which has been mildly burned from a close call with a Lava Wyrm. Layla strums a melody, and Jack feels his aches and pains soothed. The burn on Aamina’s arm fades away, leaving whole flesh behind.

The Lorikeets high-five all around. “Worth it!” Aamina and Faiza shout together.

Jack laughs. “I’m just relieved you’re all okay. I need to get back to finding Vasilisa. He looks pointedly at Layla. “Can you make sure the others make it out?”

“Don’t worry about us,” she replies. “Just get the princess!”

Make sure to check off all three of the Lorikeets’ names on the list in Jack’s Journal, then turn to 10.