The Cloud Castle – Page 62


Overleaping the Green Pipe, Jack immediately encounters another pair of Constructs, who fall swiftly to his blade.

There are four steel chests on the platform overhead, but Jack gives them a cursory look only – for he suddenly hears a woman’s cry, just as his nostrils are assailed by the unmistakable stench of the undead.

Jack brandishes his sword and leaps from the platform, discovering a yawning pit in the floor, the source of the smell. The voice cries out again, also from the pit, and Jack leaps to the rescue.

He lands nearly on top of one of the foul undead monsters menacing the Lorikeet warrior maiden. Three huge figures shift around him, uttering wrathful, unintelligible brays. They are, he realizes with a shock, Minotaurs! – or rather, they were. Now they are Zombulls, blasphemous parodies of the noble, if evil, creatures they formerly were.

Three of the huge undead monsters loom in the pit, advancing together on the weaponless Lorikeet woman. Jack lands between two of the monsters and instantly hamstrings the one whose back is turned on him. He ducks away just as the Zombull turns, and the stupid creature, brain half-rotten away, sees only another of its own kind. The wounded Zombull attacks its fellow, and in a moment all three are embroiled in the conflict. Jack draws a weapon from his pouch and tosses it to Jumana, the Lorikeet warrior woman, and together they set upon the distracted Zombulls, quickly cutting them down.

When the Zombulls are defeated, Jack and Jumana embrace. The clatter of metallic feet on the steel blocks overhead intrudes on their moment of solace in each other’s arms and they separate. They look up to see a Construct turning away from the edge of the pit. The mechanical horrors are not intelligent; they were not seen.

Jumana turns away, shaking her head.

“There is more to this than the ransom of a Princess,” she says. “The machine creatures made in this castle are called Psi-Mechs. They are Illithid constructs! And as if that were not bad enough, I’ve heard the Giant has portals to a ruined castle held by Illithids – and to the homeland of a tribe of Dragon Men! I don’t know what kind of bargains he’s struck, but the Giant is definitely not working alone. Jack, I think they’re building an army!”

Jack nods. “I have seen other evidence that suggests some diabolical, wide-ranging plan is underway.”

“Jack, be careful,” Jumana whispers. Jack squeezes her hand reassuringly.

“Jumana, you must flee this castle – and I must find the Princess,” he says. “Tell me, do you know how to find the Giant?”

Jumana shakes her head. “I didn’t make it that far. I know there is a chamber somewhere in the center of the castle with many doors, but I have not seen it.”

Jack opens the treasure chests, finding a fine bounty.

Remove a spare weapon from the Pouch of Ghrul. If he has Giant’s Bane or Storm Fist, he’ll need it to face the Giant – so don’t give it away! Add 50 Gold, 2 Rubies, and a Potion of Healing to the Pouch of Ghrul.

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

I have learned that the machine-men who guard the castle are called Psi-Mechs. They are the creations of the Illithids! Further, I have learned that the Giant has portals to an Illithid castle and the homeland of a tribe of Dragon Men. The Giant may be building an army!

Turn to 26.