20181030_lif_jankoch08

The story so far: Janko and Kon have made their way past bloodworms and the Iron-Beaked Birds to the cliff between them and Glass Mountain. Will Kon’s great leap reach the mountain? Will they fall or slide to their doom?

■ CHAPTER EIGHT

The copper belt

“Jump!” Janko shouted as they emerged from the tunnel.

Kon leapt with all his might, and he and Janko soared through the air toward the shimmering slope. Far below, Janko saw what was left of those who had tried before–their bones, tangled in the tatters of fine robes and the remnants of jeweled saddles. More than one prince’s crown lay in that pile of lost hopes.

Janko knew that Kon’s mighty hooves would soon strike Glass Mountain. What then? Would he and Kon just slide down to their deaths?

With the reins tugging again at Janko’s wrist, he thrust his hand into the pouch and came out with a fistful of small stones that he hurled toward the icy slope. Quick as a handclap, the pebbles rattled a road all the way to the top.

“Well done, master,” Kon neighed as his hooves touched down. With his feet firm on that pebble-paved road, he galloped swiftly up Glass Mountain. As he ran, the road vanished behind them.

Ahead, Janko saw the graceful towers of the castle. Kon stopped before its open door, and Janko leapt down and read the gold-lettered sign.

ALL THE RICHES MEN HAVE WISHED FOR

MIGHT BE FOUND WITHIN THIS DOOR

To the side was a smaller sign, roughly printed on a weatherbeaten plank.

Or You Could Just Take This Old Belt

Janko looked at the open door. It would be so simple to just walk within. And what reward could one expect from something so humble as the old copper belt hung over the weatherbeaten sign, even if the wizard’s book had said to take it? Janko smiled. “That which you can see is worth more than promises of wealth,” he told himself.

He stepped forward and picked up the belt. A howl of despair came from within the castle, which began to shrink and change. Just before it disappeared, Janko saw that this was no castle at all, but some sort of strange creature. What had seemed an open castle door was really its mouth.

“Well done, master. How did you know that castle was the Monster of Glass Mountain?” Kon said.

Janko laughed. “I didn’t. But that sign said that riches might be within the door, not that they were there for sure. Besides, we did not come to find all the riches men have wished for.”

Janko lifted the copper belt. “This, though, is something we came for.” Words were written in a bold script on its inner side.

Say “Bind” and I Will Hold.

Until You Do Command, “Let Go.”

Janko buckled the belt around his waist–and heard a tinkling sound like running water. A golden fountain appeared where the false castle had stood. A silver cup hung from its side. Janko was thirsty, but Babicka’s words came to him as he dipped the cup into the water: The more you want, the more you must share.

“My friend,” Janko said, holding the cup of water out to his horse,”I could not have succeeded without you.”

Kon drank, then nodded. “Even better done, master,” he said. “The first drink of water from that cup gives one the power to fly for a short while.”

“What about the second cup?” Janko said.

“The strength to do what must be done.”

“And the third?” Janko said, drinking down the second.

“Save that one for the giant,” Kon said.

“Then let us go,” Janko said, climbing back onto Kon’s back, the third cup of water held firmly in his hand.

Kon galloped across the clouds and through the sky. Soon the rough stone castle of Velky the giant was below them.

Janko jumped down and kicked the door with his foot. To his delight, it flew off its hinges and fell–with a great thud.

Velky appeared from within and scratched his head.

“Perhaps I should have used better wood and newer hinges,” he said.

“Giant,” Janko said in a firm voice. “Look at me.”

Velky turned to look at Janko. “Ah,” he said, “you are the one from that little village.” Then he smiled. “I did tell you to bring me a cow next time, but a horse will be good enough.”

As the giant reached out his huge hands toward Kon, Janko whipped the belt from around his waist. “Bind,” he commanded. Swift as a whip, the belt wrapped itself firmly around Velky’s wrists. The giant tried to pull away, but the belt held him tight.

“This,” Janko said, holding up the silver cup, “is what I brought for you.” He hurled water at the giant.

As soon as the water struck him, Velky began to shrink. Smaller and smaller he grew until he was shorter even than Janko.

“Let go,” Janko said to the copper belt, which instantly released Velky’s hands and wrapped itself back again around Janko’s waist. “Now,” Janko said to the former giant, “go–and never trouble the people again.”

With those words, Velky, the former giant, ran pell-mell down the mountain . . . and disappeared from this tale.

As for Janko, he did not become rich. Instead, remembering his babicka’s words, one who is given much must not forget to give, he returned the wealth that Velky had stolen to the people of the surrounding villages. He saved out just enough to make the lives of his mother and father comfortable. Glad they were to see that gold, but gladder still were they to see their son.

Did Janko and Kon have more adventures? Ah, as Janko’s grandmother used to say, “Another story is for another day.”

THE END

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