The Cloud Castle – Page 86

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Perilous Jack notices a small crevice in the ceiling between the steel blocks and the side of the Green Pipe.

It will have to do. He draws a rope and a rock-climbing piton from his pouch and ties the rope to the piton, which he then wedges into the crack. He tests his weight and finds the arrangement satisfactory.

In his imagination, the rescue proceeds as follows – he leaps from the Green Pipe, rope in hand, swings down and snatches the woman from the pillar just as the fatal rivulet of lava courses down the side of the Green Pipe and pulls them both hand-over-hand up the rope to safety.

What actually happens is rather less glamorous. Jack leaps from the Green Pipe, rope in hand, swings down – and at the first jolt of his weight against the rope, the anchoring piton pops free. Jack falls, crashes into Layla, and together they tumble from the pillar toward the pool of lava below.

The warrior maiden saves them both with the speed and sureness of her hands. She catches herself on the edge of the pillar with her fingertips and catches Jack with her free hand. For an instant they dangle there helplessly, as Layla’s grip slowly weakens. Then with a truly heroic show of strength, Layla lifts Jack until he can clamber up her body and grasp the edge of the pillar himself. With her second hand free, she secures her grip, and together they pull themselves painfully up, where they sit uncomfortably together on the top of the pillar, clinging to each other to keep from falling off the tiny perch.

When they have their breath back, Layla begins to berate Jack. “What kind of rescue attempt is that? Just reckless showboating, as far as I can tell – just like your entrance! You know you could have gotten yourself killed jumping on top of that bird-creature! And where would the Princess be then? And what are you doing trying to save me anyway? You should be rescuing Vasilisa!”

“Perilisks,” Jack says sullenly. “I named them after myself.”

She stares at him in disbelief for a moment, and then snatches the rope from his hand. “Give me that. I’ll get us out of here before we drown in lava.” She ties what remains of the rope – for the end has fallen in the lava and burned away – into a lasso. She stands and twirls the lasso overhead. Jack, glancing up, notices the first strand of lava beginning to run down the side of the Green Pipe, directly over their heads.

“Er, we should hurry,” he says.

“I’ve noticed,” she mutters. Layla flings the rope and loops the top of the next pillar. Pulling it tight, she gathers Jack in her arms. “Hold on tight. Feet out. Get ready to climb.”

Before Jack can reply to her terse commands, Layla leaps from the pillar, just as the lava begins to stream down, washing over the place where they just stood. They sail across the pool of lava and collide, extended feet first, with the next pillar, scant feet above the surface of the pool. Together, hand over hand, they pull themselves up the rope, walking up the side of the pillar as they go.

Layla gains the top of the pillar first and waits for Jack, hauling him up as he arrives. Jack would linger, enjoying their proximity, but Layla turns away as soon as she is sure of his footing and leaps across the pillars, quickly returning to the room of Piranha Plants. Jack follows morosely. They part ways at the Green Pipe from which the Hell Hounds emerged – for there is no other way to move forward now. Layla takes with her a weapon from Jack’s pouch and offers no farewell.

Remove a spare weapon from the Pouch of Ghrul. If he has Giant’s Bane or Storm Fist, he’ll need it to face the Giant – so don’t give it away!

Make sure to check off the rescued Lorikeet’s name on the list in Jack’s Journal.

It looks like Jack has gone as far as he can on this level of the castle, and he has not found any pipes leading up. The Warp Portal that the Hell Hound emerged from seems to be his only option.

Turn to 60.