|The climb is lengthy but not particularly arduous; the foliage of this species of Beanstalk is so artfully arranged that it is like a staircase.|
Jack emerges onto a broad island of Cloudstone, on which stands a small fortress. Outside the fortress stands a Harpy, nursing a flame-wounded wing. The bird-woman eyes him silently. Jack, accustomed to her kind immediately attacking, approaches with caution, sword ready but not threatening.
“I wondered which of you would survive to follow me up here,” the Harpy says. There is a touch of rancor in her voice, but nothing threatening. “What will you do, human?” she asks. “Will you prove yourself as vile as your kin?”
Jack puts his sword away and offers a Potion of Healing from his supply. “I have no quarrel. I entered the burning fortress thinking to rescue innocents trapped within. I pursued the sound of screams and found myself in the courtyard below. The wizard is dead. Did he burn the fortress? What is this place?”
The Harpy considers for a moment, doubtless weighing whether to help Jack or not. Finally, she shrugs and accepts the offered Potion. The dose is effective – the burns to her wing are swiftly healed.
“My thanks,” she murmurs. “The castle below you was – until today – the abode of a wizard named Garuda. He planted the Beanstalk behind you. He made friendly contact with my people many decades ago, and we have traded wisdom and favors since. The other castle you spoke of – the burning fortress – was the abode of an archaeologist and tinker named Sefgung. He and Garuda were friends. The Cloak Wizard you slew below attacked Sefgung’s home to gain access to Garuda’s castle, using his Lava Worm to tunnel below Garuda’s defenses. I happened to be visiting Sefung at the time and the Cloak Wizard crippled me and took me captive.”
“Why does the Cloak seek access to the fortress of Garuda?” Jack asks.
The Harpy shakes her feathered head. “Not his fortress.” She gestures over her shoulder with her beak. “Mine. The Harpies see much that happens on the Plateau. I do not know what specific plot the Cloak Wizard hoped to advance with the capture of this fortress, but such an outpost would be advantageous to any stratagem affecting the Plateau. This place must remain secret and well-defended, or the entire Plateau – all the Mushroom Kingdom – will suffer for it.”
“I shall not speak a word,” Jack vows. A thought occurs to him. “You said you can see much from here; tell me – do you know of the abode of a Cloud Giant?” he explains his quest.
The Harpy nods decisively. “The Giant you seek has his castle far above Crumbling Peak. There is a Pyrohydra there.”
“You have my deepest gratitude,” says Jack. “I have a friend, a priestess of the Temple of Glittering Rime. When I meet her again I will make your plight known. Perhaps they can offer some defense for the fortress below. And now I should be on my way.”
Remove a Potion of Healing from the Pouch of Ghrul.
Add the following to Jack’s Journal: it seems the wizards of The Cloak are active upon the Plateau, seeking the advantage of a fortress in the Cloud Kingdom – can this be related to the abduction of Princess Vasilisa by a Cloud Giant? Or can it be related to the theft and shattering of the Nightcrystal? There are odd conspiracies afoot. Perhaps I should confer with Dark Simon – he was once of The Cloak.
Once down the Beanstalk and outside the castle of the wizard Garuda, Jack finds that this little adventure has deposited him nearly back where he started.
If Jack has not already visited the Dwarves of Oakstump Hall, he can delay his quest to rescue the Princess and do so now. Turn to 25.
If Jack has not already investigated Blackrock Castle, he can delay his quest to rescue the Princess and do so now. Turn to 22.
If Jack has not already braved the Lake of Razor Eels, he can delay his quest to rescue the Princess and do so now. Turn to 20.