There was just the tower wall, the ladder, and himself. And after a bit, a bird. A red cardinal flew about him once, twice, three times and then landed on one of the ladder steps just above his head.
"You sure are climbing high, young sir," the cardinal said, staring down at Rickets with an almost curious look.
Rickets started, but managed to regain his wits and his grip before he plummeted to his death. "I appreciate," he said squarely, "that you are a talking bird. That is truly incredible. But I don't have the time just now to answer your questions."
"I have asked no questions, sir," said the bird. As Rickets resumed his journey upwards, so did the bird hop up another step. "I merely made the observation that you are quite high up. Do you deny it?"
"No," said Rickets, "but I'm doing my best to not think about it."
"A wise decision, indeed," said the cardinal. But then it cocked its head to one side and added, "but not as wise I think, as not climbing this ladder in the first place. Unless I have quite forgotten myself, you humans cannot fly. Is that not so?"
"Aye," said Rickets, drawn into the conversation despite his intention to not become distracted. "But desperate times call for desperate measures. I climb so that I can save the princess from the Mad Duke Mortimor, and perhaps an ancient ogre." he said.
The cardinal cocked its head to the other side now and said "Now I am confused. Just as you say, sire, there is a princess, an ogre, and someone who could be a duke in the tower. But they seem to getting along famously. Earlier I observed them eating supper and they were in high spirits. Even the ogre seemed in a perfectly charming mood."
Rickets faltered a bit at this, but continued climbing. "I'm certain you are mistaken. The princess is a hostage of the Mad Duke."
"I suppose," said the cardinal slowly, as if entertaining a new thought, "that if the Duke were truly mad, then he might treat his hostages like honored guests. All the same, if I couldn't fly I wouldn't climb up this high just to rescue a girl from a sumptuous dinner."
"She needs me," Rickets said. He continued to climb.