|“I will wrestle the Twin Liger of the Burning Plains,” declares Perilous Jack.|
Xerxes issues a hearty, delighted laugh and gestures to the Stone Giant in the pit. The Giant advances and unscrews the cap on the third GreenShaft. Meanwhile Jack and Xerxes leap together into the pit and wait for the Giant to finish his work. When the cap has been removed, the Stone Giant suddenly seizes Jack in his immensely powerful arms.
“No offense, friend,” Xerxes laughs. He relieves Jack of sword and dagger, but overlooks the pouch at his belt. “This is a wrestling match, you understand, not a duel to the death – at least not to the death of my hard-won champion Liger!” He laughs at his own wit. “I will judge the throws and pins, and if you prove the victor, I will personally restrain the Liger while you exit the arena.”
With another laugh, Xerxes leaps into the GreenShaft. A moment later the Giant lifts Jack and drops him into the Warp Portal.
Jack emerges from the GreenShaft onto a stone platform overlooking the arena floor. They are in a natural stone cavern, the walls glittering with gold ore. Xerxes stands on a high platform well above the arena, safely out of reach of the combatants. On a platform projecting from the opposite wall stands a treasure chest.
“Cross the arena floor and claim your prize!” Xerxes cries. Suddenly a massive form shifts in the darkness below. Jack leaps to the arena floor and carefully stalks forward, keeping a stout stalactite nearby in case he should need concealment. Four lantern like green eyes wink at him from the shadows and with a tremendous twin roar, a huge catlike creature leaps forward. Jack dodges aside and rolls at the last second, narrowly avoiding being impaled on one of the long straight horns projecting from the Liger’s two heads. The Liger skids to a halt, its claws finding little purchase on the slippery stone, and turns to charge again.
For an instant the cat wavers, and Jack realizes that the two heads are not quite in agreement. As the cat crouches for a second pounce, Jack turns and runs for a row of stalactites projecting from the cave floor like teeth. The cat bounds after him, snapping with its twin jaws and swiping with terrible, disemboweling claws. Jack dives into the fence of stalactites and whirls, just as the Liger crashes into the stone formations.
For a moment only, both of the cat’s heads are wedged between stalactites. Jack seizes the horn growing from the center of each head, and straining with all his heroic strength, forces the horns to cross each other like swords in a fencing match. He plants his boot at the point where the horns intersect and bears down, driving the cat’s heads deeper into the wedges that trap them. The claws scrabble uselessly on the stone, unable to gain sufficient leverage to counter Jack’s powerful hold. Overhead, Xerxes counts down from ten.
“Six, five, four, three, two, one – and Perilous Jack takes it!” cries Xerxes. The wrestler leaps from his platform and lands on the back of the Twin Liger. Seizing a neck in each arm, he locks the creature in an immobilizing embrace.
“Go claim your prize and return to the surface,” Xerxes says. “I will join you there in a moment.”
Jack releases his hold on the Liger and springs to the treasure chest, where he finds a fine pair of gauntlets, engraved with the symbols of the Three Faces of the Great Tower – Gevura, God of Strength; Din, God of Justice; and Pachad, God of Fear. With a single backward glance at Xerxes, who seems quite at ease holding down the enormous cat, he leaps into the Warp Portal to rejoin the waiting Giant on the surface.
A moment later, Xerxes reappears, grinning triumphantly. “A fine victory, my friend! You displayed courage, cleverness, exceptional strength, and truly sportsmanlike conduct.” He gestures to the gauntlets in Jack’s hand.
“The Gauntlets of Gorodin,” Xerxes says. “They will increase the power of your blows. May they lead you to ever-greater deeds of heroism. You may pass through the lands of the Red Ghurka and return again unmolested.”
“My thanks,” says Perilous Jack, and saluting the wrestler with his newly-gauntleted arm, he continues on his way.