Days later, Blue scanned the broken horizon. He saw on the western peak, the decaying castle where the witch conjured. A chilling voice whispered inside his head Blue knew this terrible place.
Three days and two nights it took to reach the castle on foot. Blue spent every coin. His gritty clothes were tattered and he shivered from the brisk mountain night air. Clearly, he was a monstrous sight. He was very tired. Secluded by rubble near the castle, Blue watched for sights and sounds which might tell where Pearl Girl was. All he could see and hear was the brewing storm, black as a sooty cauldron. Blue thought he saw a flickering light high up. Even higher than the castle itself.
Dry lightning flashed, showing the silhouette of a huge hot-air balloon anchored to the tallest castle tower by a thick rope. The balloon danced over a black sky warship tossed by pounding invisible waves. The suspended wicker gondola was dark. No one could have foreseen this problem. Discouragement washed over Blue’s tired heart.
Blue shook his head. Somehow, he knew Pearl Girl was prisoner in the air fortress. With a powerful storm brewing, Blue’s rescue was even more perilous.
Suddenly, Blue heard a loud clattering nearby. The staggering old witch moved noisily over the gravel. Blue hid in the darkness.
“Good night, pretty girl. Pearls for me tonight. Crying for three days. Ha. More pearls for me,” the witch greedily staring up at the now dark pitching balloons. Blue smiled, the witch had unknowingly confirmed his hunch.
She stopped suddenly and peered in Blue’s direction. Blue froze with fear. “Cold stormy night. Makes me sense … old enemies?” she muttered.
She burst unexpectedly into a delirious cackling howl. Gasping for air, she let out another noxious snorting and slobbering. Blue knew, for some reason, once she started her laughing attack her raucous chortles could last for hours. The Witch noise signalled like a venomous rattlesnake’s tail shaker. She was insane.
Her lack of self control is my ally tonight, Blue thought.
Blue roused his courage and bolted into the crumbling castle. As he went deeper in the mouldering darkness, he found the curling tower stairway. The sound of the witches blubbering faded as he climbed further and higher. Fearful thoughts drifted in his head: with each stone step he thought, “Pearl Girl, please, be safe.”
At last, he leaned against the tower’s top door. He closed his eyes, turned the bolt, and pushed hard against the thick planks with his shoulder. The door creaked on it’s heavy hinges. Blue saw the swaying windship, tossing wildly in the stormy night gale.