The Magic Beans – Page 48



“I will wrestle none but Xerxes the Indomitable!” declares Perilous Jack.

Xerxes eyes him thoughtfully for a moment, and then issues a hearty, delighted laugh and gestures to the Stone Giant in the pit. The Giant advances and unscrews the cap on the fourth GreenShaft. Meanwhile Jack and Xerxes leap together into the pit and wait for the Giant to finish his work. When the cap has been removed, the Stone Giant suddenly seizes Jack in his immensely powerful arms.

“No offense, friend,” Xerxes laughs. He relieves Jack of sword and dagger, but overlooks the pouch at his belt. “This is a wrestling match, you understand, not a duel to the death – at least not to the death of a creature as rare and precious as Xerxes the Indomitable!” He laughs at his own wit. “We shall wrestle to a three-count pin.”

With another laugh, Xerxes leaps into the GreenShaft. A moment later the Giant lifts Jack and drops him into the Warp Portal.

Jack emerges from the GreenShaft onto a stone platform overlooking the arena floor. They are in a natural stone cavern, the walls glittering with gold ore. Xerxes stands on the arena floor, looking up with a triumphant smile. On a platform projecting from the opposite wall stands a treasure chest.

“Cross the arena floor and claim your prize!” Xerxes cries. Jack leaps down to the arena floor and advances, arms loose at his sides, fingers curling and uncurling in anticipation. Xerxes surges forward, and the two wrestlers suddenly connect, chest to chest, legs straining. Jack realizes instantly that he is in trouble. Although he hasn’t the stature of a true giant, Xerxes definitely possesses the strength of that ancient race, and Jack knows he is no match. The huge wrestler heaves him to the earth, but disdains to pin him immediately, preferring to toy with his outmatched opponent.

It is while he lies thus supine that Jack sees the key to this puzzle. Xerxes is wearing a thick wrestler’s belt adorned with an ornate gold buckle. The buckle is engraved with an image Jack finds familiar – the symbols of the Three Faces of the Great Tower – Gevura, God of Strength; Din, God of Justice; and Pachad, God of Fear. The belt, he realizes, must be magical, able to enhance the strength of the wearer. Xerxes is cheating.

Jack smiles tightly to himself. Two can play this game. Xerxes turns away for a moment, striking poses and beaming up at an imaginary audience. In the brief moment that the wrestler is looking away, Jack draws a PowaShroom from his pouch and swallows it down. The magic takes effect immediately, causing Jack to swell in size and strength. He rises just as Xerxes turns back from his posturing. Seeing a larger, more powerful opponent standing before him, Xerxes begins to protest – “Hey – ”

“You have a belt, I have a mushroom,” Jack snarls, and hurls himself at the wrestler. Xerxes meets his charge unsteadily, the glint of dawning fear in his eyes. Jack’s charge propels the wrestler backward, to slam into a cluster of stout stalactites rising from the arena floor. Flustered and out of breath, Xerxes fights poorly as Jack drags him to the earth; all the same, it takes every ounce of Jack’s heightened strength to pin the huge wrestler. He counts ‘one, two – ’ and suddenly a dagger flashes toward his face, wielded by Xerxes’ free hand.

Jack ducks inside the swing of the dagger and smashes Xerxes’ face with his forehead, stunning the huge wrestler. Breaking free, Jack strikes him once more, knocking him unconscious. Swearing angrily under his breath, Jack disentangles himself from the wrestler and strips off his magical belt, donning it himself. He crosses to the treasure chest and hauls the huge lid open. Inside is a pair of gauntlets, decorated with the same divine symbols as the belt. Xerxes stirs and opens an eye.

“Gorodin,” he mutters. Jack looks again at the gauntlets and remembers a childhood tale of a giant-slayer named Gorodin who wore a magic belt and gauntlets. So these are the legendary items!

“Go,” Xerxes moans. “The Red Ghurkas will not molest you if you wear the Gauntlets.”

Perilous Jack slips the gauntlets on, spares one final, contemptuous glance for the humiliated wrestler, and returns to the surface to claim his equipment from the Giant.

Put the Belt of Gorodin in the ‘Belt’ slot on Jack’s list of Equipment and the Gauntlets of Gorodin in the ‘Gauntlet’ slot.

Turn to 22.