The Magic Beans – Page 38

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Jack and the Dwarf emerge into a subterranean chamber permeated with a variety of objectionable smells: must, dust, decay, and the acrid stench of chemicals.

The room, Jack notes, is filthy. A tangle of pipes occupy the center of the room, and nearly every horizontal surface is covered with clutter: jars of potion, candlesticks, wooden chests and barrels, and skulls of various races, human and otherwise. Jack thinks he can spy the grotesque bulk of a Carrion Crawler amid the clutter, doubtless the reason the bones are so clean.

Suddenly three flying machines heave into view and circle Jack, extending delicate, needle-like pinchers toward him. Victorinox waves his hands at the machines and curses at them in Dwarvish. With peevish little clicks and whirrs, they retreat.

“That’s Bindlestiff, Blazedale, and Fairbairn,” Victorinox explains. “Upstairs, the ones on the chains are Strix, Tiercel, and Bubo. You’ve already met the boys. Useless guards, the whole bloody pack of them.” He notices Jack’s expression. “It’s a bit whiffy in here, I know,” the Dwarf mutters. “It’s a storage room, aye?”

Jack makes a noncommittal noise.

“Right,” the Dwarf says, suddenly business-like. “You’ll be wanting to know what all this is about. I’ll give you the short version. You’ve been to space?”

At Jack’s blank expression, the Dwarf shakes his head irritably. “Never mind. I’ll spare you the details. Between the stars is a whole lot of empty space. People sail around in it like they sail the seas here on Malkat. The rest doesn’t concern you much. I was a smuggler; I had a line on a cargo of extremely rare metals used in the production of colloidal circuitry. The ship was called Sundancer, a ridiculous name for a bloated cargo-hauler. I was in the hold, cargo loaded on a repulsor skid, my ship Gyrodyne standing by, grapnels locked. The Sundance was completely disabled; nothing left but life support. All that remained was to stroll through the airlock and down the gangway with ten million credits’ worth of metal. And then a Warp Portal opened right in the middle of the cargo hold, and a giant two-headed dragon came sauntering through and pounced on my repulsor skid. I threw a handful of fireballs down his gullet, but he made off with my goods anyway.” The Dwarf rummages around in a pile of clutter and produces a small oil painting on stretched canvas. “I’ve immortalized the event here. Someday when I’ve conquered the Heart Lands and they endow museums in my name, this will hang in a gallery called ‘The Room of Revenge.’ It took me years to track the dragon down, but I’ve found him at last – his lair his directly under our feet. He calls himself Graben & Horst. With my beautiful war machines – and yours, too, I hope – I’ll march down there and get my metals back.”

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Victorinox’s painting of his first meeting with Graben and Horst

Jack finds himself speechless after this incredible tale, but Victorinox does not seem to notice. He moves briskly through the messy chamber, picking up various objects and holding them up for Jack to consider. First he displays a large key from a chain around his neck.

“This is the Cloud Key of Cerpux Arsak. You observed the platform above my workshop, all festooned with dangerous plant monsters? There is a Beanstalk among them that leads to a hidden chamber in the clouds. This key unlocks the door, and will provide free passage through the plant monsters as well. I will give you this key in exchange for the construct. There’s some kind of magic sword in the hidden chamber. Not really my cup of tea.” He slaps at his belt, where he wears a huge rusty wrench in a sheath. “This works for me.” Before Jack can answer, Victorinox is off to the next item.

“This is a Potion of Air Body. Drink this and you will be light and insubstantial as air. No harm will come to you, but you will be at the whim of every breeze until the magic fades.”

“This is a Potion of Earth Body. Drink this and your body will harden to stone. You will be nearly impervious to blows, but unable to move faster than a highly motivated turtle. These come in two sizes – single dose, and a 3-dose Super-Size jar.”

“This is my Gigas Size Potion of Healing. One convenient jar, 5 doses of potion.”

“This is a Potion of Illusion. Drink it and you will take on the appearance of something else near you. Very useful for hiding, but you don’t have control over what you look like. Best not taken in a room full of people who all hate each other.”

“This is a Potion of Tree Walking. Useful for dodging enemies in a forest. Don’t ever use it where dryads live! They are quick to take offense at any breach of their privacy.”

The Dwarf pauses near a collection of wooden barrels. A sickly-looking young Beanstalk grows from one of the barrels. “These barrels contain soil from the enchanted forest of Faulstitch. They contain Magic Beans. I think. Honestly, this is the only one that’s sprouted, and I can’t say for certain that the others actually have beans in them. There was some confusion when the barrels were being packed.”

Victorinox nods in satisfaction. “That’s the lot, then. The Cloud Key for your construct, and if you want to buy any of this other stuff, it’s all for sale. What do you say?”

“Er, what kind of magic sword?” is all Jack can say.

“The Sword of Cerpux Arsak,” Victorinox replies with some irritation, as if the point were obvious. “Made of coral. Highly efficacious against water beasts. What do you say, lad? I’ve got some bargains here.” And the Dwarf rattles off the prices for each of the items he has named.

Victorinox’s prices are very high! Jack notes that his Potions of Healing and Potions of Antidote are at least four times more expensive than what his friend Drao Rennid sells in the village of Tucreed. And the rest of the potions seem of dubious efficacy. Still, he has to remind himself that he is in the middle of the wilderness, not the shopping district of a large city.

If you would like to buy potions, here is the list. Don’t forget to add them to the list of Jack’s Equipment and deduct the gold from his purse. It may help to make notes in Jack’s Journal about the uses of each potion – and the Dwarf’s warnings about them!

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If you think Jack should make the trade with Victorinox and leave the Death Claw in exchange for the Cloud Key of Cerpux Arsak, turn to 44.

If you think he should politely decline the offer and continue with Tynplyt to Foldoron Lake, turn to 30.