The Cloud Castle – Page 83


As he was taught, Jack brushes his fingertips across the three red feathers embroidered in the Lorikeet Ribbon.

Suddenly his body is as buoyant as if he were floating in water. He eases himself cautiously into the air, half-believing that at any moment the magic will abruptly cease and plunge him into the lava below. Yet the Ribbon functions flawlessly, and Jack quickly finds that he is able to swim through the air as easily as he would in water. Remembering Hana’s warning that the Ribbon only functions for a few moments at a time, Jack does not indulge his wish to joyously explore his new power, but instead sails up and up, toward the gap in the ceiling.

As he approaches, he sees that a Green Pipe projects from the distant ceiling of a hidden chamber above the Hall of Lava. Lava trickles from the Green Pipe, filling a small basin, which drains through a gap down the wall of the central chamber. It is from this Green Pipe that the lava filling the floor of the chamber has emerged. Through the steady stream of lava pouring from the Green Pipe, Jack can glimpse the hidden chamber beyond – he sees solitary blocks of steel floating in air – a vast emerald bulk, indistinct through the haze of heat – and suddenly the lava in the basin begins to heave and churn.

A pair of scaly red claws emerge, followed by the tips of curling yellow horns. Leathery folds of skin follow the claws, and Jack realizes it is not hands he sees, but small grasping claws at the tips of a pair of enormous wings. A huge head rises from the lava – blazing eyes lock on his – and a terrible maw opens, revealing cruel, serrated fangs. With terror, Jack realizes what enemy he faces – it is a Pit Fiend, one of the most powerful and evil of the devils stalking the labyrinth of Hell.

The Pit Fiend opens his cavernous mouth and utters a single, soul-searing word in the language of the Inferno, a Blasphemy which washes over Jack in rippling waves of negative energy. The power of the devil’s Blasphemy spell overcomes his mind and drains his body of power. The last thing he remembers before blackness takes him is the sensation of falling – down and down, toward the fiery element the Pit Fiend calls home.

Turn to 32.