The Cloud Castle – Page 20


The Warp Portal deposits him in a tiny chamber with a lava-flooded floor.

A T-shaped pillar of steel blocks rises from the lava pool, on either arm of which stands a hideous Giant Scorpion. Between the Scorpions, menaced by their poison stingers and tearing claws, stands Hana, warrior-woman of the Lorikeet Guard. As if the Giant Scorpions were not menace enough, a pair of venomous Giant Centipedes dangle from their Green Pipe burrows in the ceiling.

“Hi, Jack!” Hana cries, waving excitedly. Jack remembers her irrepressible spirit with a smile; the woman would skip and whistle a happy tune through the halls of Hell itself.

Jack immediately flings the Dancing Dagger of Danzibar at the nearest Scorpion, wounding it and distracting all the giant insects from their captive. The Scorpion turns on Jack, and the warrior quickly learns not to underestimate the reach of its tail – for the huge piercing stinger lashes across the gap separating them and nearly puts out one of the warrior’s eyes. Only his instinct saves him, for the heat waves rising through the gap make it difficult to see the Giant Scorpion clearly.

The Dancing Dagger of Danzibar returns to his hand and he throws it again, this time half-severing the Scorpion’s tail. Maddened by the pain, the stupid creature surges forward to tear at him with its claws – and plunges headfirst into the lava pool below. Jack leaps across just as the second Giant Scorpion charges forward, flattening Hana to the floor with its body at the same moment one of the Giant Centipedes lunges for the woman with its mandibles. The Centipede receives only a mouthful of Scorpion tail for its trouble, for which the Scorpion retaliates by tearing with its claws at the second Centipede.

While the giant insects are thus embattled, Jack drags Hana from under the Giant Scorpion, and dodging tail, mandibles, and claws, together they leap to the far wall, where a single treasure chest rests on a narrow ledge. There is no purchase here for a giant insect, should any survive their three-way combat and attempt the leap.

Amid the hiss and chitter of insect combat, Jack and Hana embrace and exchange greetings. The woman withdraws first, digging eagerly into the contents of the treasure chest. Among the gems and coins, they discover the woman’s own weapon – a set of Ice Shuriken – and a curious device which Jack first mistakes for a piece to a machine, like the Iron Golem guarding the entrance to the Realm of the Nightcrystal. It is an iron ring several inches in diameter, with a handle spanning the interior and a number of irregular teeth and depressions around the edge. Turning it over in his hands, he suddenly realizes – it is a key! And he has seen the lock – on the cap to the first Red Pipe in the Spike Room. He slips the Iron Key into the Pouch of Ghrul, already tingling with the anticipation of opening a new room.

“Have you seen the Giant?” Jack asks Hana. “Do you know where he is?”

The woman shakes her head. “I have not seen him. However, I heard one of his minions mention their master waiting on the roof. Perhaps he can be found there.”

As they speak, the Scorpion succeeds in killing one of the Centipedes is in turn dragged into the lava by the other. Now a single Centipede coils around the pillar, chittering excitedly at the heroes. Hana flings a handful of Ice Shuriken at the beast, slaying it instantly. As the body uncoils and drops into the lava below, they leap across and pause to examine the Green Pipes in the ceiling. There are no Warp Portals here, only the filthy burrows of Giant Centipedes. They leave the room together and part ways in the Spike Room.

Make sure to check off the rescued Lorikeet’s name on the list in Jack’s Journal.

Add the Iron Key to the Pouch of Ghrul and turn to 90.