The Magic Beans – Page 13



Hardly has Perilous Jack stepped across the border into Red Ghurka territory, when he is surrounded by dozens of Goblins.

Behind the dark swarm dozens more emerge from GreenShafts, from platforms high overhead, from the very stones, it seems. In surprise, Jack displays the Gauntlets of Gorodin, proof of his safe conduct through Red Ghurka territory, but the Goblins remain silent and sullen, keeping their pikes and halberds trained on him. In a moment both of Xerxes’ Stone Giants appear, and the Goblins break ranks to admit them.

“You come with us,” one of the Giants rumbles. “King Xerxes would speak with you.”

Although he is suspicious, Jack realizes that he is thoroughly outnumbered. Fighting now would be suicide. With an effort of will he removes his hand from the handle of his sword and nods his assent.

Together the Giants and Goblins lead Perilous Jack into the heart of Red Ghurka territory, to the four GreenShafts leading to Xerxes’ wrestling arenas.

“Your weapons,” the Stone Giant says, holding out an enormous hand. Jack is surprised at his manner; earlier the Giant simply seized him and took the weapons himself, but now he keeps his distance and simply demands. Perhaps Xerxes has learned some newfound respect for the adventurer. Jack removes his sword and dagger, but retains his pouch and other items. The Giant seems satisfied by this, and unscrews the cap of the fourth GreenShaft.

Suddenly it occurs to Jack that Xerxes has determined to add him to his collection of prize combatants, to be numbered among the Twin Liger of the Burning Plains, the Chimaera of Crumbling Peak, and the Catoblepas of Forbidden Swamp. Jack moves for his weapons, but before he can reach them, the second Stone Giant sweeps him up and deposits him in the GreenShaft. Before Jack can scramble back out, the cap is screwed shut.

Trapped, he makes his way out onto the familiar platform overlooking the arena floor. There on a stone shelf high overhead, stands Xerxes the Indomitable, a cold sneer printed on his face. And there, standing slump-shouldered and forlorn on the floor of the arena, is Stump the Gigas.

“I suppose you are very pleased with yourself,” Xerxes says. “Not only have you beaten my challenge and claimed my coveted prize, but I have recently learned that you have also set free my beloved pet. And on top of all this, you have the temerity to return to my kingdom, bearing the sign of Gorodin as if you were the beloved of the Great Tower and the personal champion of King Xerxes.”

“It is one thing to keep animals for your own amusement; keeping a sentient creature as your slave and prisoner is unconscionable. Were I of a vengeful nature, I might have chosen to punish you for your crimes, but instead I have merely righted what you have wronged.”

“Pah!” spits Xerxes. “Enough talking!” He draws a short blowpipe from his belt and fits it with a dart, which he blows at the Hill Gigas. The dart sails, gleaming in the torchlight, and buries itself in the neck of the sorrowful creature.

Suddenly the Gigas shudders all over and straightens, a savage gleam in his eyes. The giant creature sees Jack standing near, and issues a terrible, maddened roar, while blood pours from his eye sockets and flecks of foam spray from his mouth.

“To the death!” Xerxes cries. “And the winner goes to the Boros Pit!”

If Jack is wearing both the Gauntlets and Belt of Gorodin, turn to 57.

If he wears only the Gauntlets, turn to 24.