The Cloud Castle – Page 66


Emerging from the Warp Portal, Perilous Jack falls a short distance to land on a retractable bridge.

Instantly he realizes that coming here was a mistake. Below the bridge, a vast pool of bubbling, fizzy pink and purple fluid spreads, from which emerges a terrible stench. Jack can see brains floating in the slime, and a palpable sensation of despair and confusion wafts from the pool, so thick it is nearly a component of the smell permeating the room.

He is not alone on the bridge. A pair of Psi-Mechs, larger than any he has yet encountered, advance upon him, followed by a procession of walking Elders, whose exposed brain matter crackles with paralytic energy. The Elders represent one of the higher stages of Illithid development, and they are generally as well defended as they are rarely seen. Doubtless the Psi-Mechs are their escorts – and now Jack notices a pair of Illithid Wizards observing from a high alcove.

There is no doubt that Jack is outmatched here, and that to fight would be suicide. A control for the bridge lies near at hand; before his enemies can attack, Jack kicks the lever to retract the bridge and leaps for the Warp Portal. The last thing he sees is the procession of Elders and Psi-Mechs plunging into the Brain Pool.

He returns to the Hall of Lava shaken and confused. A Cloud Giant castle containing a portal to a secret Illithid lair? No, more than just a lair – although Jack is certain that the architecture of the place he has just left is human, and not Illithid, it is evident that the Illithids are well-enough established and safe enough in that place to cultivate a Brain Pool and the development of Elders – both of which are otherwise far too vulnerable to be found anywhere but a full-fledged Illithid city. As to where that lair may be hidden, it is anyone’s guess. For all he knows, the Warp Portal leads to some abandoned castle on the other side of the world – or in another world altogether.

Now he is more resolved than ever to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Turn to 15.