The Plateau of the Endless – Page 20

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Plateau (20)

Perilous Jack’s journey to the Lake of Razor Eels is relatively painless; the combined presence of the Dragon and the Dwarves serves to keep the wandering menaces away, even beyond the edges of their respective domains. 

A pack of Wolves, a patrol of Goblins, an aimless gang of Ghouls – these are all the menace Jack encounters.

As he approaches the shore of the lake, his attention is captured by the bewildering tangle of broken FloatStone masonry hovering far overhead; the ruins of some cyclopean structure of the Emerald Dynasty, now inhabited only by giant, bird-eating Black Spiders. Yet, what mysteries these old ruins must conceal! What ancient treasures, never seen since the Emerald Dynasty abandoned them in ages past! Jack sighs, captivated by the lure of adventure – and in the fog of reverie, walks directly into the most terrible adventure of his life.

He casts a glance up into the sky ahead, and there meets the gaze of an enormous, red-rimmed eye. For a moment, he thinks it must be a Dragon, until he feels the tingle of power wash over him. His enchanted blade suddenly feels heavier in his hands, and with a sinking feeling, he realizes the truth – the eye staring at him through the twilight is that of a Beholder, one of the fearsome floating orbs of the netherworld, and he has walked into the anti-magic cone generated by the Beholder’s central eye. Even as he watches in mounting horror, the eyeball-tipped tentacles wreathing the Beholder’s spherical body swivel around to bear on him, ready to unleash their devastating magical rays.

Only a single ray strikes him, and he feels his limbs stiffen and refuse to obey. He has been paralyzed. Behind the Beholder, he can make out other forms shifting in the shadow – on a platform over the water stands an Illithid Wizard, and now a pair of Illithid Priests sails across the water from an island in the center of the lake, propelled by their levitation magic. The Razor Eels of the lake snap their fangs impotently at the flying monsters overhead, and heave their enormous worm-like bodies from the water, but they cannot reach.

 

The Illithids hover not far from Jack, examining him curiously, their tentacle-fringed mouths writhing. Doubtless, they are anticipating a fine meal, for Illithids devour brains by cracking open the skulls of their victims with their powerful mouth-tentacles.

However, Illithids have other, more horrifying powers, and now as the Beholder holds Jack in paralysis, the Illithids unleash devastating psionic blasts at his mind, battering at the defenses of his ego. As his mind begins to crumble under their onslaught, Jack notices a distant bank of clouds flickering red and orange, as if backlit by bursts of flame – and there a Beanstalk growing, up and up into the cloud. The lair of the Pyrohydra, no doubt. He wonders faintly if he has even come to the right place.

The Illithids, already firmly lodged inside his mind, hear his thoughts and wither his vulnerable mind with their scorn. No, they tell him, there is no Cloud Giant here. In the last moments, before his mind crumbles entirely, he has time to wonder – why are the Illithids here? What is their plan for Malkat? Why have they caused the darkness of the Nightcrystal to fall?

A moment later, none of this matters to him. He will live on; he will be a great warrior; he will be a great thrall. None of this will matter to him. For although Perilous Jack will continue as the obedient slave of the Illithids, for the Perilous Adventures, this is . . .

 

THE END.

 

Return to 1 and begin the quest again or continue the adventure in Perilous Jack and the Star-Harrowers of Thin’glin.