The Plateau of the Endless – Page 52


Plateau (52)

Behind Perilous Jack, the Beanstalk has been steadily growing, and now it has attained enormous proportions.

The trunk is as thick as the bole of any ancient cedar of the Dark Forest, and the leaves that sprout thereon are wide enough for a man to use as a hammock. Jack, seeing the Giant Eagle dueling with the immortal head of the Pyrohydra, springs away from the numerous lesser heads that menace him, and leaps to the ever-growing foliage of the Beanstalk. He bounds from leaf to leaf, gaining altitude, while the Beanstalk swells beneath, pushing him up even as he climbs. In moments, he is well above the Pyrohydra.

He whistles to the Giant Eagle, who breaks off his attack on the immortal head and swoops around beneath the leaf on which the warrior stands. Jack leaps into the Eagle’s saddle, and together they dive toward the immortal head, which spits fire at them as they come. Jack blocks the devastating fireball with his frost-blazing sword and dives from the saddle of the Eagle, brandishing his sword two-handed as he falls. The immortal head of the Pyrohydra surges eagerly forward, thinking to snatch the falling morsel from the air, but as the two converge in the sky, Jack brings his blade down in a mighty sweep that severs the Pyrohydra’s head from the neck in an explosive union of flame and frost. All the remaining heads shriek in unison as the immortal head tumbles to the broken stone of Crumbling Peak.

Jack lands nimbly astride the back of the serpentine monster, protected from its terrific heat by the fast-fading magic of the Frost Potion on his blade. Even as the maddened heads of the Pyrohydra attempt a confused rally overhead, Jack reverses his blade and drives it two-handed, down into the junction of the many necks, down into the beast’s fiery heart. The Pyrohydra’s hot blood erupts in a fountain, coursing past Jack’s ice-sheathed blade with a terrific shriek as of a thousand cherry-red swords plunged fresh from the smith’s furnace into the waiting water. The body collapses in a heap and the waving heads rain limply down upon the warrior.

Slowly Jack struggles free of the serpentine necks and drags his sword from the body. The magic of the Frost Potion has faded, consumed in the cataclysmic union with the Hydra’s flaming heart. However, even as the body cools, there is still heat radiating from the great Furnace in the Hydra’s belly. Jack thrusts his blade in again and slices the belly open. Hot red light spills forth, and Jack uses the point of his sword to carefully draw out the source of the heat. It is a great red ruby the size of a catapult stone, and it glows with terrific heat. Jack cuts away a section of the Hydra’s scaly skin and uses it to wrap the ruby. Only when it is contained in the makeshift pouch of Hydra skin is the artifact safe to handle. Jack tucks it safely into his pouch and clambers free of the body.

Now he turns his attention to the towering Beanstalk, which has continued to grow during his battle. The tip of the Beanstalk is invisible far overhead, lost in the clouds and the shadow of mystic night. The Giant Eagle is gone, perhaps nesting among the leaves of the Beanstalk to rest after its fight with the Pyrohydra. Jack would like to rest too, but the end of his quest is too near.

He sheathes his blade, loosens his shoulders – and begins to climb.


Remove the Magic Beans and the Frost Potion from the Pouch of Ghrul and add the Hydra’s Furnace. Turn to 69.