Continuing the adventure that began here.
CHAPTER XXIX: The Flying Mountain.
We all leaped to the side, and a moment later there was a great clanging crash as a huge pile of wood and strings detonated on the ground.
“He dropped a piano!” I gasped, looking back at the wreckage.
“In fact,” said Weyland, “I believe you’ll find that was a harpsichord. The harpsichord plucks the strings rather than striking them with hammers, and—more relevant in this situation—has no cast-iron plate, which means that its—”
“Look out!” shouted Tluxapeketl, and we all leaped out of the way of the next falling object, which crashed to earth with a great clong.
“That was a piano,” said Weyland.
“I think we should start running,” Miss Kun remarked, and she did not wait for us to agree.
“But in a serpentine path,” Weyland said as he followed her, “so as to make it—”
A big cast-iron stove fell, narrowly missing him; it would have hit him had he been running in a straight line.
“Point taken,” Miss Kun called back over her shoulder.
By now we had reached the highest point of the pass, and as we began to descend around a curve to the right, I was suddenly confronted with perhaps the strangest sight I had ever seen in my life. Just ahead and to the right was a rocky peak, with a substantial growth of forest; but it was hovering in the air, with a space of perhaps seven feet between the bottom of it and the ground.
“He is dropping a mountain on us!” cried Tluxapeketl.
“No!” Miss Kun shouted back. “It’s—”
An old automobile crashed to earth right beside us.
“That was a Maxwell,” said Weyland. “They’re no longer manufactured.”
“Everyone under the floating mountain!” Miss Kun shouted, running in that direction.
“Under it?” I repeated in disbelief.
“It’s our only—”
There was an almighty crunch, and a trolley landed on its side just a few feet from me as I ran.
“A tram,” said Weyland, “of the type formerly used in Barcelona.”
Miss Kun was now standing under the impossible floating peak frantically motioning for us to join her. Weyland and Kitty got there first; Tluxapeketl and I reached them just as the most horrendous crash yet met my ears. I looked back to see a switching locomotive smashed upside-down on the trail.
“Isn’t the rock going to fall on us?” I breathlessly asked.
“It should be stable for months,” Miss Kun said. “It’s a natural—”
There was a tremendous series of bangs and smashes as something huge bounced off the floating peak (which only bobbed a little) and crashed to the ground nearby.
“Battleship,” said Weyland, “of a type used by the French navy about thirty years ago.”
“These hills,” said Miss Kun, “are riddled with natural goesuppium deposits. Every once in a while a whole section of mountain becomes detached and floats, hovering about here and there. The peaks can float indefinitely as long as the goesuppium gas doesn’t escape.”
“It must have tremendous lifting power,” said Weyland. “I had thought that hydrogen was the lightest gas in the universe.”
“Hydrogen is the lightest,” Miss Kun explained, “but goesuppium is the only gas that’s actually counterheavy. It’s the secret of my father’s airships, and of course of his ability to hoist a battleship and drop it at will.”
“So we’re sheltered from falling objects,” I said. “But now what? We can’t leave our shelter, or Kun will start dropping things again, unless he’s lost interest already.”
“Which he hasn’t,” said Miss Kun. “Daddy can be very patient.”
“In that case,” said Weyland, “what we need to do is to stay under the shelter and move forward at the same time, which should be easily accomplished. Look on the ground under the rock for stout branches. Long ones, like this one. This is the sort of thing we need. Everyone look for branches like this. Why, thank you, Kitty—that’s exactly what I meant. Now, everyone find a spot on the underside of the rock where your branch can catch, like this. Good. Now all we have to do is push forward as we go, like this. See? We’re perfectly safe.”
We were walking along the trail pushing the mountain along like a canopy above us. A hail of objects crashed all around us—washing machine, double bed, tuba, Linotype, drill press, samovar, thresher, steamroller, drafting table—but we were quite safe under the impenetrable rock.
“Daddy is throwing a tantrum,” said Miss Kun.
“And everything else,” Tluxapeketl added as a kitchen sink clanked to the ground not far away.
But we made it through the rest of the pass, and it was clear from the increasing distance between us and the rest of the falling objects that we were out of range of Kun’s barrage. Just as well: the slope was turning downward again, and we had reached the point where our branches were not long enough anymore to touch the underside of the floating peak. It continued to drift off in the direction we had last been pushing it.
“Now, which way to your father’s castle?” asked Weyland.
“Up there, where the trail starts to rise again, there’s a secret back entrance to the underground complex,” said Miss Kun, pointing. “The good news is we can sneak in there. The bad news is that Daddy knows we’re coming, and he probably expects us to sneak in there.”
“And how should we get from here to there?”
“I was planning to walk,” Miss Kun replied.
So we left our branches on the ground and walked on, relying on Miss Kun’s apparent confidence. We walked swiftly, but nothing happened: apparently we were well out of range, and the Devil King’s tantrum was over. It only made me wonder what fiendish outrage he was plotting next.
The secret back entrance to Kun’s underground complex was cleverly disguised, but Miss Kun slid the perfectly balanced rock aside with one hand and revealed a gate big enough to bring a locomotive through.
“Now,” she said as we walked into the darkness of the huge tunnel beyond, “all we have to do is get through the underground complex, make it upstairs to the castle, capture my father, and get a message through to the Archbishop telling him to get out of Wilkes-Barre and take back control of the Archdiocese, and we’ve saved the world for the forces of good.”
“And how easy will that be to do?”
“If I know my father,” Miss Kun replied, “practically impossible.”
“Completely impossible,” said the voice of Kun from the darkness in front of us. But it was not dark for long. Twin torches silhouetted the Devil King from behind; and as their light intensified, we could see that the torches were in fact columns of fire from the nostrils of the Pyrosaurus.
“Under the circumstances,” Weyland remarked to us, “it might be best to run.”
All of us, Kitty included, agreed with his assessment, and as one we turned and dashed back toward the entrance.
But as we neared the gateway, it was suddenly blocked by a horde of lightning-bolt minions.
I glanced back into the tunnel. Kun was walking toward us, with the Pyrosaurus following behind him.
“You won’t escape, of course,” Kun said. “My entire staff of minions has been deployed at the only exit you can reach from here. And my Pyrosaurus has been broken of his unfortunate habit of fetching sticks, Mr. Weyland, so that trick will do you no good. And now, if you’ll just wait right here, I think my Pyrosaurus has some unfinished business with all of you.”
Don’t miss tomorrow’s thrilling episode: