The Magic Beans – Page 08



Perilous Jack is quick to learn that the Myconids are not the only threat lurking in this part of the TowaShroom Forest.

As he springs among the TowaShroom caps, looking for the easiest way through the choking vines and foliage of the forest, a flower stalk suddenly turns and a spiky, bullet-shaped head comes streaking toward his face like a striking snake. He dodges aside and the head withdraws, preparing itself for another strike. For a moment Jack cannot make out what has attacked him, whether animal or plant, but at last the conflicting impressions resolve themselves.

He has stumbled upon a grove of the fabled Vulture Flowers. At the moment, most of the plants stand upright and still, their flower heads open like any other, looking like little more than giant-sized lilies with cream-colored petals. But then the plant that struck at him folds shut, revealing the woody spikes that stand out from the backsides of the petals. The tips of the petals are likewise hard and sharp, creating a piercing barb. Thus folded, the flower heads resemble the heads of vultures, earning the carnivorous plant its name. The flower heads stand on stalks half again Jack’s height, surrounded by mobile leaves, which even now come at Jack in a distracting, buffeting flurry.

A pair of spiked flower heads launch themselves at his face and torso and Jack stumbles back, flinging one of his blazing torches. He lands among the leaves of a Vulture Flower behind him and finds himself quickly wrapped in layers of stifling leaves. Using the remaining torch like a club, he batters wildly, scorching the leaves restraining him. The Vulture Flower releases him with a high, keening wail and he stumbles forward, scrabbling at his sword. The blade leaps into his hand just as the next strike comes; he decapitates a pair of flowers with a single stroke, finding their necks as easy to cut as any wildflower he might pick to please a lady.

Perilous Jack carves his way through the Vulture Flower grove, sword in one hand, torch in the other, eliciting more screams of plant pain, which shrill in stark counterpoint to the mournful caws of the Rust Birds wheeling overhead.

Free of the carnivorous plants for the moment, Jack springs ahead, deeper into the TowaShroom Forest. Ahead he can see huge Beanstalks towering over even the mushroom caps. His heart lightens; he knows the edge of the lake is close.

Just as he prepares to leap forward, something overhead catches his eye. There on a platform above the TowaShrooms rises a GreenShaft, the only one he has seen since entering the TowaShroom Forest. Perilous Jack hesitates, uncertain. A GreenShaft so isolated and well-defended by virtue of its location might contain great wonders untouched for an age – or certain death.

If you think Perilous Jack should continue to Foldoron Lake, turn to 40.

If you think he should investigate the GreenShaft, turn to 78.