The Cloud Castle – Page 84


“Thank you, but I should be getting about my quest now,” says Perilous Jack.

Monkfish’s dour face breaks into sudden anxiety. “At least help me reclaim my possessions,” he says.

Jack lingers in hesitation and then nods reluctantly.

With the help of the Professor’s son, Perilous Jack succeeds in wrestling the heavy chest down from a niche near the ceiling of the lair onto the floor. While Jack is at first suspicious of Monkfish’s claim to be the owner of the chest’s contents, he is convinced when the man produces a silver key sewn within the lining of his cloak, which unlocks the heavy wooden case.

The Professor unpacks the chest, spreading dozens of items across the flagstone floor. Most are the classic tools of the undead hunter – wooden stakes and garlic; vials of holy water and flasks of flammable oil; crossbows loaded with explosive bolts; charms, amulets, and spell scrolls; tools for digging open graves, bursting coffin seals, prying open tombs and sarcophagi; books and scrolls of local history; maps and loose pages of notes. Below these common items – none of which are sufficiently rare to warrant Jack’s attention, other than to confirm his opinion of the Professor’s real profession – he comes to several items of use to the adventurer.

“Healing potions and antidotes, of course,” says the Professor. “Indispensable items. Here’s a rarity – a Potion of Living Death. Absolutely the best protection against the undead. While the elixir endures, the undead can’t tell you from their own kind, and even if they could, they can’t hurt you! Fantastic stuff. Has its drawbacks of course; you become vulnerable to the same things that hurt the undead – fire, holy water, and the like – but the effects are temporary – not like the real thing, eh?”

The boy groans in anguish, saving Jack from having to laugh politely at Monkfish’s bad joke. The warrior begins to wonder if something might be seriously wrong with the boy – after all, as terrifying as his captivity must have been, he appears uninjured, albeit emaciated and pale. Monkfish grimaces unpleasantly and flourishes the next item, drawing Jack’s gaze away from the boy.

“A Silver Wand!” he cries. “Forged of Moon-Silver by priestesses of Yisod, specifically to slay the undead. Very effective against both corporeal and incorporeal types. It actually disrupts necromantic energy, rather than inflicting physical damage – very helpful if you plan to put the original owner back into a possessed body.”

The Professor lays the Wand aside and a fierce light blossoms in his eyes. “I’ve saved the best for last,” he whispers with a showman’s theatrics. The boy whimpers again and Monkfish whirls on him. “Confound it, lad! This is important!”

Regaining his calm, Monkfish smiles at Jack and thrusts his arms into the chest. He draws forth a human skull, gilded and ornately carved, decorated with gems and highlights of platinum inlay. “I promised you a companion for your new weapon, didn’t I? This is the Skull of Count Fearlonn. A powerful artifact, I assure you. Once a great necromancer, Fearlonn experienced a profound vision of Yisod in his middle years and converted to Her worship, becoming a fearsome hunter of the undead. After his death, his skeleton was divided and preserved by his acolytes, as they each displayed various properties of value to the hunter. The Forearm, you have seen, makes a formidable weapon, as it can actually absorb the necromantic energies that keep the undead from crossing over into death. The Skull has been modified –” he flips up the Skull’s face, revealing that the Skull has been cut apart and reassembled with hinges “– so that it may be worn as a helmet. With the visor down, the wearer can not only detect the undead at considerable distance and see the invisible incorporeal types, but he is also protected from possession. Indispensable for ghost hunters.”

Professor Monkfish thrusts the Skull forward eagerly. “Would you like to try it on?”

“I think I would rather purchase some potions,” says Perilous Jack. Turn to 4.

“Perhaps I’ll have a look at the Silver Wand instead,” says Perilous Jack. Turn to 22.

“Er, alright. I’ll see if it fits, at least,” says Perilous Jack. Turn to 33.

“I really should be going,” says Perilous Jack. Turn to 64.