The Magic Beans – Page 52



Perilous Jack flings the Dancing Dagger of Danzibar at the nearest of the Giant Eagles.

While the bird is busy trying to snap at the animated dagger and beat if from the air with its enormous wings, Jack leaps across to the platform. The jump is long, even with the Seven League Boots, and he barely catches the edge, dangling for a moment from his fingertips. The two remaining Giant Eagles swoop in to investigate, and Jack regains his feet just in time. He drives back the Eagles with a dizzying series of sword thrusts, recalls the Dancing Dagger, and leaps up into the mouth of the GreenShaft.

Here in the enclosed shaft, the Eagles cannot reach him except by perching precariously on the edge and thrusting in their massive heads. The first Eagle receives a sword point through the eye for its trouble and tumbles away dead, leaving the other two to consider their tactics. They land outside the GreenShaft and wait, preening their feathers and occasionally peering in with a shiny black eye. They make no further move to attack or enter the GreenShaft.

Satisfied, Jack turns to examine the entrance to the GreenShaft. To his surprise, there is no door, bars, or any other obstruction. He continues into the shaft, allowing his eyes to adjust to the deepening darkness. The forlorn wail he heard earlier is repeated, echoing through the metal shaft with thunderous force.

“Hello?” he calls. “Who’s there? Are you injured?”

The wail is cut short with a startled hiccup. Jack reaches the end of the shaft and steps down onto a stone platform, which overhangs a dark pit. A massive figure shifts in the darkness below, a flint and steel spark, and a candle is lit. For an instant Jack reels back, thinking the pit occupied by the undead, until he realizes that the spectral shape hovering before him is simply a hollow skull containing a candle, a modified lantern. The huge figure in the pit turns the skull’s eyes so that the light falls on itself, and Jack sighs in wonder and awe.

The prisoner is indeed a giant, but not of the young race commonly called by that name. He is a Gigas, the race which stands in time between the ancient Titans and the modern Giants. He is of the hill races of Gigas, evidenced by his green skin and hair. The creature would stand nearly thrice Jack’s height, ironically a bit shorter than many modern Giants, if he were able to stand. Instead, he must hunch his broad shoulders to stand at all, and even then, in the tight space between the wall and the overhang, there is barely room for his huge body. The Gigas presumably sleeps in the alcove beneath the overhang, but at no point is there enough room for him to straighten his body or stretch his arms. The conditions are cruel, even to inflict on so wild a race as the Gigas.

The Hill Gigas utters another terrible moan and turns away from his own light, covering his face. The creature is in pitiable condition, filthy, half-starved, half-crippled by his tiny quarters.

“Who are you?” Jack asks. “How do you come to be prisoner here? Who is your jailer?”

“Stump,” the creature moans. “Me Stump. Xerxes put me here.”

Turn to 29.