The Magic Beans – Page 22



True to Xerxes’ word, the Red Ghurka tribe does not interfere as Perilous Jack crosses the last miles of their territory.

Everywhere he encounters Goblin patrols, he need only show the Gauntlets of Gorodin, and the Goblins shrink back, bowing in respect.

At last he reaches the border of Red Ghurka territory, a region thick with the hovering platforms of the First Men and GreenShafts inhabited by the Red Ghurkas themselves – the huge red centipedes venerated by the Goblin tribe. Here Jack sees the logo of the Red Ghurka tribe, this time in the form of a metal medallion affixed to each GreenShaft inhabited by the sacred centipedes.


The medallion of the Red Ghurka Goblins

Just across the border, Perilous Jack encounters a number of strange devices, perhaps an example of the ancient technology of the First Men. The machines consist of squat, hollow tubes of a curious glossy black metal, a few of which are mounted on pillars adorned with skull-shaped plaques of white metal. A latticework of crackling silver-blue energy is suspended inside each end of the tubes.

As he approaches the first of these tubes, the lattice of energy suddenly pulses and an enormous bullet-shaped creature, gleaming black like the tube, appears in the center of the lattice and flies toward him with incredible speed. He dodges barely in time, and the creature disappears into the lattice of the next tube. Jack shakes his head in amazement; the creature’s savage eyes and snapping fangs are burned into his mind. But there is no time to think; the launcher that caught the first Black Bullet now fires another – or the same again, he cannot tell.

As he leaps aside, he nearly stumbles into another danger – a giant slug-like creature with a slimy, spotted hide and a horrible set of pincers. Dodging Black Bullets and Pinch Slugs, he gains the safety of a Goblin-occupied platform and pauses to catch his breath. A Goblin eyes him with mingled amusement and sympathy.

“Are there a lot more of those tubes ahead?” Jack asks. The Goblin nods emphatically. “And the slugs?” Another, even more enthusiastic response.

“Da Ghurkas eatses da slugs,” the Goblin offers.

“That doesn’t help me, does it?” Jack asks. The Goblin shrugs.

Jack sighs. There is no help for it; he leaps atop the nearest Bullet Launcher and squints against the slanting rays of the rapidly fading sun. The days are getting shorter; it is twilight already, nearly night.

Perilous Jack leaps forward, out of the relative safety of Red Ghurka territory, and into the wild again.

Turn to 67.