The Magic Beans – Page 86



Jack’s hand closes on the hilt of his fallen sword just as the Green Boa strikes.

The warrior barely manages to turn the blade in time to receive the blow; the huge head knocks him sprawling and his sword flies away again. But he has wounded the creature for the second time, this time more deeply. The Boa rears up to strike for a third time, and now Jack, prostrate on the floor and weaponless, is sure his end is in sight. Suddenly a pink blur flies through the periphery of his vision and collides with the Green Boa. It is the Coral Boa! The huge snake sinks her fangs into her wounded mate, and the two monsters writhe and thrash on the stone floor together for a moment, shattering stalagmites and spraying him with rock chips.

Bewildered by the sudden betrayal of the Coral Boa, Jack gathers his fallen sword and stands ready, uncertain what to expect from this turn of events. A moment later the Coral Boa emerges victorious, her brightly patterned body stained with the blood of her mate. The huge snake moves toward Jack, and he raises the Rune Sword in warning. The blade brushes the body of the Coral Boa, and for an instant he witnesses a startling transformation. Where the blade has touched her, the snake’s body briefly loses its scaly hide and instead appears as the smooth hip of a human woman. The transformation fades, and Jack blinks in the darkness, uncertain that he has truly seen this wonder.

The head of the Coral Boa hovers over his, and the snake hisses, not menacingly, but in an urgent, repetitive fashion. Suddenly Jack thinks he can discern a word in the hissing: “agaaaaiinn.”

Light dawns in Jack’s mind. He presses the side of the Rune Sword against the snake’s body again, this time holding it firmly in place.

Now he is rewarded with an even more stunning transformation. The Coral Boa collapses in a writhing heap and then fades away, to be replaced by a beautiful girl in a snake-patterned dress. Jack stares astonished for a moment, and then as it becomes apparent that the girl is nearly fainting with emotion, he sheathes his sword and runs forward to take her in his arms.

“Th – thank you,” she gasps. “The curse will return, but for the moment at least, I am free.”

Jack helps the girl to a pile of stone and she sits. “I am Perilous Jack the Dragonslayer,” he says.

The girl gives him a wan smile. “Princess Kiyoko of Umapilefa.”

“What is this curse you mention?”

The princess points up, toward the roof of the cavern. “Up there, in a chest on the highest platform, you will find the answer,” she says.

Turn to 81.