The Plateau of the Endless – Page 69


Plateau (69)

Far above Crumbling Peak and the ruins of the Pyrohydra’s body, Perilous Jack climbs the Beanstalk into the very clouds. 

Hours pass and still he climbs, although in many places he cannot see beyond the tip of his own nose, for the mist of cloud is thick upon him. A host of curious fancies assails him. He dreams that he is not alone upon the Beanstalk; fancies he can hear Ogre-speech below him, among the rustling of leaves. He dreams that there are creatures living upon the isolated islands of cloud, creatures who have never seen land and never dreamed that such a thing could exist. He dreams that there is a whole host of life upon the Beanstalk itself, a web of prey and predator who live only among the rustling leaves and twining tendrils, who spring into existence with the first drop of blood shed upon the Magic Beans, and who live only in the vertical world of the Beanstalk.

It may be that all of these fancies are true – but no Ogre rises to overtake him, and he encounters no creature among the earthly clouds, nor among the leaves of the Beanstalk. However, in time the Beanstalk pierces new strata of cloud, one so far from the surface of the earth that it would likely be mistaken for the edge of the sky itself, but as the mist of lesser cloud disperses, Jack can see that what is sky from below may be earth when seen from above.

TowaShrooms grow upon this firmer layer of cloud, a whole forest of them spreading away as far as he can see. Strange creatures, like those of his earlier imaginings, drift among the giant mushrooms, and as a few draw nearer, attracted by the strange intrusion of the Beanstalk, Jack finds he is able to identify them. Their bodies are little more than misty whirlwinds, but Jack knows that there is considerable power in their airy limbs – they are Air Elementals, and this cloudy realm is their home.

For the most part the Air Elementals seem content to hover and observe the fast-growing Beanstalk, whispering among themselves in their atmospheric voices, but one in particular is more curious – or more hostile – than the others are. The Elemental dives and swoops toward the Beanstalk – in particular, toward the leaf upon which Jack stands – and its motions are becoming ever more aggressive.

Although he is loath to leave the Beanstalk, Jack finds he has no choice. He leaps to the surface of the nearest TowaShroom and confronts the boisterous Air Elemental.


Does Jack have the Paper Fan? If so, turn to 50.

If not, turn to 24.